12 Weeks of Christmas: 11 Biggest Photo Facts

12 Weeks of Christmas: 11 Biggest Photo Facts

In this installment of the Twelve Weeks of Christmas, we have the 11 biggest and boldest possible facts in photography. They don't come any bigger than this!

The photography industry is a big thing, so it takes some doing to top the pile. Below, we have 11 facts that demonstrate just how big it needs to be to get to the top.

1. Largest Camera

So you think a 10"x8" camera is pretty sizable? Well, the largest on record is Building #115 (a jet hangar) at 160 ft x 45 ft x 80 ft. Located on the U.S. Marine Corps' El Toro air station, it was used as a pinhole camera, creating a single, seamless exposure on to a piece of sensitized fabric as part of the Legacy Project. Referred to as the Great Picture, it measures a mighty 111 ft by 32 ft and is of the Control Tower outside the hangar. Six photographers accompanied by 400 volunteers used 24,000 square feet of black plastic, 1,300 gallons of gap filler, 1.5 miles of black tape, and 40 gallons of spray paint! The cloth was sensitized using 21 gallons of gelatin silver halide emulsion and then exposed for 35 minutes from a 6mm hole in the door. Final production involved 600 gallons of developer and 1,200 gallons of fixer, all within an area the size of an Olympic swimming pool!

2. Most Expensive Camera

No, it's not a Hasselblad or Phase, but rather an antique camera. And what brand is more iconic than Leica? Yes, the most expensive camera ever to be sold (at auction) is a 1923 Leica O-Series, which went for the eye-watering price of $2.8 million in 2012. It wasn’t until 1924 that Leica went in to mass production with the Leica 1 with a fixed 50mm f/3.5 lens, with the O-Series being a pre-production run of 25 cameras making this a rarity indeed. That little red dot makes new cameras pretty expensive and rare, old ones astronomical!

3. Largest Camera Collection

Dilish Parekh of Mumbai, India, has managed to amass a remarkable collection of 4,425 antique cameras that set the Guinness World Record in 2007. Since he inherited the first 600 from his grandfather in the 1970s, he has carried on the family tradition that includes a Leica 250 (worth about $15,000), Canon 7 (with f/0.95 lens), button spy camera, watch camera, lighter camera, along with other household names including Hasselblad, Linhoff, Rollieflex, and Bronica to name but a few.

4. Largest Panoramic Image

I distinctly remember the 2015 365GP image of Mont Blanc as being a stunning panoramic image; however, this isn't the biggest pano around. Topped by some margin is Tan Sri Dato' Sri Paduka's 846GP Panaxity image of Kuala Lumpur taken in 2014 from the 85th floor of Menara Kuala Lumpur and combining over 31,000 individual images. The setup involved four Nikon D800s with 800mm lenses on robotic heads that shot at one frame per second to give four 90-degree images before being stitched into a full 360 pano.

5. Smallest Camera

I thought a number of the Minox cameras were tiny; however, this amazingly small camera measures a paltry 1x1x1 mm, about the size of a salt grain. Produced by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, it is intended for internal medical applications, taking 250x250 pixel images (62,500 pixels). And no, they didn't have to produce the world's smallest SD card to go along with it, rather attaching it to a (very) thin electrical wire for data transfer. You now know where they put these!

6. Most Expensive Photo

Andreas Gursky's 1999 Rhein II sold for $4,338,500 in 2014. This is one of Gursky's signature chromagenic prints (C-print) of the Lower Rhine. It's large at 3.6x1.9 m, mounted behind acrylic. When you look at the image on screen, it seems a little flat — even boring. In fact, definitely boring. Yet, this is not doing credit to the genre that Gursky has pursued, which is the "in your face" hyper-real image. I imagine this is one photo you really have got to see in the flesh; at this size, it is all encompassing and designed to overwhelm the senses. The lack of focal point is the intention to enable you to believe you are in the image, a part of the scene. He explains part of his process to The Guardian, noting his images are about "the balance between great scale and a huge amount of sharp detail."

7. Most Expensive Production Camera

This title seems to bat back and forth between Phase One and Hasselblad; however, it currently rests with the Phase One XF IQ4, a 150MP medium format camera coming in at a none-to-paltry $52,000, based upon a 120.26 x 90.19mm BSI sensor that outputs 14,204x10,652 pixels. The core components of Capture One are now integrated directly into the camera to give greater flexibility in processing. Read Fstoppers' Zac Henderson's detailed review for more.

8. Most Expensive Lens

The famous Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L tops the pile at an eye-watering $120,000. At over 36 pounds and 3' long (with a 9" front opening), it is pretty difficult to wield in any meaningful way. And yes, because it's an EF lens, you can use a 2x teleconverter to get a 2400mm reach. Using a mount converter and sticking it on an APS-C camera would be insane! At f/32, the hyperfocal distance is a relatively small 1.4 miles, getting bigger from there. B&H spent a day with the lens (after a $10,000 deposit!), which is well worth dipping into.

9. Biggest SLR Lens

Being expensive is one thing, being big is entirely another. To date, the biggest lens was produced in 2012 (?) by Zeiss as a custom build for a private client for use in wildlife photography (or so they said!). The 1700mm Apo Sonnar T* was designed for a Hasselblad 203FE 6x6cm medium format camera and weighs an incredible 564 lb/256 kg. The price was not disclosed (unlike the Canon EF 1200mm above), so it could well be (and is likely) the most expensive as well. I don't fancy attempting a panning shot with that!

10 Longest Photographic Negative

We're all used to shooting 35mm film. If you've strayed beyond this standard, then you might have shot on 120 (6x6cm or 6x9cm) or even ventured to 10x8" large format. Esteban Pastorino Diaz's 240-foot negative panorama of the 2nd Ring Road (Beijing) is therefore pretty immense and eclipses the previous Guinness World Record he set of 130 feet around the streets of Buenos Aires! If you have been following the A to Z of Photography and read Shooting Sex and Strip Photography, then you might have an inkling how he achieved this. The images were captured by a strip (slit) camera, which was mounted to the roof of a moving car. Using 35mm film, the 2,400 feet make for one very strange aspect ratio! See the entire Buenos Aires image in one three-minute video.

11. Largest Printed Photograph

This was printed by Shinichi Yamamoto of Japan, measuring 145 m long and 35.6 cm wide having been produced from a 30.5 m by 7 cm negative using a handmade panoramic camera. This has been verified by Guinness World Records, but details are sketchy, to say the least, with no details available online. If anyone knows any further information, then post it in the comments!

Lead image a composite courtesy of Xavier Romero-Frias via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons. Body images via Wikipedia and used under Creative Commons.

Mike Smith's picture

Mike Smith is a professional wedding and portrait photographer and writer based in London, UK.

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The Canon EF 1200mm f5.6L lens can be used with APS-C camera's without a mount conversion so I was somewhat confused there. Maybe he means using a Fuji or Sony APS-C, but that would be silly. I too got to use one, not in the field, but my friends living room that overlooked the pacific ocean. His dad owns one and uses for surfing photography from time to time, his dad is not a professional, but a wealthy amateur. I'm not going to name them, but most people would know who they are or what company they used to own. It was an amazing lens to see in person, I have a Nikon 400mm f2.8 VR lens, which I thought was large and heavy. Well it felt small and light after seeing and using the 1200mm lol!

That's a great anecdote and must have been pretty cool using it. And good spot on my mistake.... My brain short circuited writing it. Of course, you don't need a mount converter