Guest post: Large format photography with Nikon D800 as a negative holder

This guest post on using the Nikon D800 as a negative holder for a large format camera + lens setup is by Jan Håkan Dahlström:

It’s really quite simple. What you need is a large format camera, a suitable lens and a digital camera body instead of a film holder. In this case it’s an Arca Swiss 4x5/9x12 rail camera, an Yamasaki Congo 180 mm/4.5 lens and a Nikon D800:


First, you’ll need to mount the D800 on the camera. I used a lens board with an opening about the size of the body opening of the D800. On the lens board I mounted a Nikon mount extension tube. The tube must be at least 15 mm, otherwise the prism of the Nikon body will hit the lens board. Preferably it shouldn’t be thicker than 15mm since the thicker the extension tube, the taller the lens you’ll need to use due to lens-focus plane distance.



All lenses over approx. 135mm can be used but a large format lens is to be preferred due to its wide image circle. Using a large format lens increases the possibilities to swing, tilt and rise the standards of the camera.

Once this is done, you can start shooting, preferably in the Live View mode. Procedures are now a blend of traditional large format photography and D800 high end digtal shooting.

Two sample images taken with that setup:


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  • Pat

    Isn’t this what we used to call a bellows? see Nikon PB-4…

    …my D7000 works great on it.

  • friendly neigbour

    Haha…. So, if you have this, you can shoot puss…. I mean a cat and carpet…. awesome 🙂
    At least you’ll have the illusion that you shoot a pu I mean a cat which is why you bought your camera on the first place :)))

  • As for the Lens limitations, the problem is the lens design (Rear Flange focal Distance) that’s the minimum distance of the rear lens flange from the film plane for infinity focus. The combination of Bellows + extension Tube to mount the body exceeds this minimum distance for wider lenses to focus at infinity Nikon is 46.5 mm . . that’s the reason wide angles wont work on the DSLR body/4×5/adapter combo . . you can however get some killer close up with some wide angle lenses. . . . It is fun to experiment and old 4×5 stuff is cheap.

  • Ben

    Interesting but it’s still 35mm format. I do not see much difference with this and normal bellows attachment setup except it’s huge.

    • Ben

      Wait I see difference now by using a large format lens instead of PB6 and 35mm lens whcih is for macro and this is more like Tilt/Shift lens, but It is still 35mm format that is not changed.

  • Paul R

    I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while. Mostly because my 4×5 doesn’t get a lot of use thsese days and I miss working with it. And I miss the movements and the amazing lenses. I think it would be fun to play with.

    The extension tube is a brilliant idea … that answers the question of how to makeshift a setup like this without spending real money or needing a machine shop. If I get bored I might try it someday.

    And yes, everyone who’s saying that this isn’t large format is correct. It’s a small format view camera. Basically it’s a really ungainly digital technical camera … like the real medium format technical cameras, but a much bigger camera and a much smaller format. Sounds dumb until you look at the price of those backs (and cameras, and lenses…) The d800 itself costs less than any of the good MFD lenses, and costs a tenth as much as the digital backs.

  • Andrew Hayes

    I tried a Canon 5D3 the other day, now there is a camera that SHOULD be used for bashing in nails.

  • wtf

    These comments are like what happens when the teacher leaves the classroom for five minutes. Grow up, people.

    Canon, Nikon, D800 or not, who really cares? The more bitching you all do about what is or isn’t a fail is really pointless. Don’t give the trolls the attention their parents gave them.

    Regarding the actual post, it’s a very neat idea. I highly recommend folks try shooting with a 4×5 and a film back. The negatives will blow your mind and the process will cause you to slow down and think through the process.

  • Danny

    I’ve been reading through all this and had a good laugh, regardless of the canon guy vouching for the brand or just simply trying to make ppls hate it is beyond me, but yeah there were alot of “simple” minded replies to his posts nonetheless 🙂

    I personnaly don’t care about the brand, I just want to get the job done or picture taken without any fuss.

    Anyways about the greencast on nikon lcd screen is true, here is a review from a commercial photographer that wants to switch brand because of it (dunno why he wouldn’t just buy another D4 withou the problems allthough).

  • Ren Kockwell

    This is hilarious because of course it features a cat shot. You can’t make that stuff up.

    Admin, a troll hijacked this entire thread. You need to get control of your site. It’s too painful to wade through the idiocy, and now that my D800 is in my hot little hands, I have far less patience for it.

  • Matt Clara

    I want to try this, but I’m not clear exactly how the 15mm extension is mounted to the board. Anyone care to elaborate?

    Also, I’m having trouble locating a 15mm extension. Nikon offers 8, 14, and 27.5mm tubes (and I’m not shelling out $80 for the 14mm only to glue it to a board), and all the third-party tubes seem to come in 12, 20 and 36mm lengths. Suggestions?


    PS. I’m with the others who say the trolls need to be axed. There are literally several dozen page lengths of off topic responses to comb through here, making the response area useless.

    • Matt Clara

      I finally wrote Jan himself, who helpfully replied within an hour. Here’s what he said:

      “I used a cheap, fully automatic Kenko tube, bought through a web shop. All the contacts and mecanics inside it is worthless in this case, so I removed it as far as I could.

      I removed (unscrewed) the front adapter (where the lens should fit in) of the extension tube. I made the hole in the lens board smaller than the front adapter opening. I drilled holes in the board, put the adapter on the rear side of the board, lined the extension tube on the board frontside and finally, pushed the screws through the holes in the adapter and the board into the extension tube and screwed it together.

      See attached image, this is taken from the rear side of the board. What you see is the board and the front adapter of the extension tube, it’s quite thin. You also can see the inside of the extension tube. So, three “layers”: Front adapter, board and extension tube screwed togetheter with the screws you’ll perhaps can make out from the image. Then I painted the chrome adapter black, preferably matte black.”

      The image Jan referred to can be found here:

      In a subsequent email, Jan clarified that he was in fact using a Kenko 20mm tube (not a 15mm).”

      Thanks Jan!

  • ncarste

    An interesting experiment.

    I initially thought the first image to be a fake – in a view camera the image is upside down on the ground glass. But, of course, the D800 monitor is not a ground glass and always turns the image the correct way.

    Since the sensor is not sitting flush with the usual position of the ground glass, but in a rather deep tube of at least an inch. I would expect severe vignetting when trying any shift movements. Tilt should work OK, but have you tried shift movements?


  • Ganea Paul Marius

    So many stupid people argue about they’re stupid tools.
    A camera is a camera.

    Admin i would like to see some more examples

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