35mm or medium format (for me)?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by fontmoss, May 23, 2009.

  1. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    Now this is a cross forum post really so Ive posted it here and also in medium format as I expect the answers or at least the bias to vary.

    Im new to photography, 6 months in almost and 6000 photos so as you can probably guess Im a digi user. BUT i want to try out film. Initially it was as an experiment and something to dabble in before i go back to uni in september but even in the course of my searching its taken on a life of its own and im now looking for something long term (although i havent actually taken a film shot yet)

    So im looking at a nikon 35mm FM2n manual camera with 85mm f2 lens or a cheap medium format set up possibly a bronica. I know each forum will have its own ideas about what i need but im also guessing some of you have 35mm and medium format.

    Im thinking of using it in different application to my digi SLR which is always with me for low light or interesting stuff where i might rattle off a few shots to find 1 or none are worth keeping. Instead it would be a sort of portrait camera not in a strictly posed sense but a camera where i can garner a lot more texture and feel than with my digi camera. Confusing? My flickr is here for an idea of what i like to do. Favourites may show more clearly what i would like to do.

    Cost is an issue but id be looking to self develop by the end of the summer and hopefully use darkroom etc at uni. Potential repairs are a possible issue. Portability-can i lug around a medium format or indeed would i want to. Interchange of lenses-with the nikon i can use lenses i have for my digi.

    Anyway through in your tuppence/cents worth as to which you feel is a better plan.
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Most MF are very luggable. Some are tiny even. This isn't really an issue. You'll find some 35mm are actually heavier then the lighter MF cameras.
     
  3. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    For me. at least, that is the key issue.

    Your digital kit covers speed, spontaneity, experimenting and is relatively lightweight as well, so medium format would be a good complement to it.

    You seem to like one lens only, so that along with a 6x6 or smaller format camera might make the weight acceptable. Ultimately though, how much weight you feel like lugging around is something only you can answer.
    In my case, the thought of carrying around my Pentax 6x7 with 3 lenses makes me immediately reach for my lightest 35mm kit 95% of the time...
    YMMV
     
  4. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    I use D700 Nikon digi and a FE2 so I can use the same lenses.

    Film is not magicly better than digi. You will get the same image.

    To pick up very fine detail, a larger neg or sensor is required. Your images are not the type that would benefit.

    Digi is a great learning tool because you get an immediate image. You have a lot of practice to do and the machine gun approach does not work well with film. You need to be able to predict what the image will look like, Ansel Adams called it visualization. Until you can do this, you are just snapping away and hoping.
     
  5. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    i understand what you mean here but perhaps i am misrepresenting myself. I meant that in low light situations where people are talking and moving and the light is changing i may take a lot of shots in order to get one where for that fleeting moment i get what i want. I can visualise that moment but when timing is so brief i like to take a few shots to make sure i get it.

    I intend to use a film camera in a different way, it would be a far more considered and thought out process.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    If you are truly going the way you describe, a sheet film camera, like a 4x5, opens up a world of possibilities that roll-film cameras can normally only dream of.
     
  7. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    If you can really live with one lens, then a MF folder, TLR (Q.C.: Please don't both correcting me by saying that TLRs have two lenses) or rangefinder might fit the bill very well indeed.
     
  8. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    1 lens isnt an issue really (at least thus far!) and i think im coming to see if cost wasnt a factor then id get a MF but money is an issue. I gues sin many ways im asking if 35mm can still capture the textures and qualities* that MF has in buckets and which, i feel, digital lacks.

    *qualities as in feel, texture etc not asking for a troll re. which is superior
     
  9. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    I think you will find that 35mm cameras are going to feel and act a lot more like your digital camera. Try MF if you want the slower, contemplative approach. Take a look at a Mamiya RB67. You can probably get an older used body with a waist-level finder and one back, plus a 150mm or 180mm lens, for not a lot of money (insert plug for KEH Camera here). The RB is a camera some use hand-held, but you may find that you prefer it on a tripod (I certainly do!). There is lots of info about the RB67 and RZ67 cameras on this forum. Welcome to APUG!

    PS - The difference between 35mm and 6x7 is immediately obvious in a larger print, if detail and texture are important to you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2009
  10. kavandje

    kavandje Member

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    For what you're describing, don't aim low.

    Medium format is ideal for less candid material, and in terms of 'feel', MF (and large format) is where film really begins to shine. 35mm is a fine format, and would have the advantage, if you're shooting Nikon for example, that the lenses will interchange with your digital equipment. But in my opinion, while it's cheaper, it won't touch a well-executed medium format photograph in terms of tonality

    Personally, I love the 6x6 format, and consequently I am happy as a clam shooting either my Rolleiflex TLR(s) or Hasselblad. The latter is a lot more involved, but partly thanks to the proliferation of pros going digital, increasingly cheap, offering unparalleled bang for the buck. You should be able to pick up a 500 series body, an 80mm f/2.8 Planar and a back or two for not too heavy an outlay. If you can find a much cheaper Bronica, fine and dandy – they're excellent cameras – but given the choice of a Bronica system for (say) $400 and a Hasselblad system for $500, I'd make a plan and spring for the Hassy.

    If you're on a really tight budget, pick up a beater 35mm camera, shoot your heart out, and save up for MF. Nobody said you can't have both, and Gear Acquisition Syndrome is a healthy, normal thing for a photographer.

    Hope this helps!
     
  11. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    yeah all things being equal a hass would be sitting in my bag but i cant find one (from a dealer which is what i want for added piece of mind) whereas ive seen a couple of ETRS for £200. if 35mm gives me enough texture and feel over digi then that will be fine until i either get paid for work or find more money to build a MF set up. Some good suggestions here but realistically im ona dirtbag budget- £250 tops and a MF at that price also means an 80 rather than 150mm lens.
     
  12. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    Over the years, I have shot 35mm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x9cm, 4x5inch, and 8x10 inch film.

    I no longer shoot 6x6 and I have never shot 645.

    If I were starting from scratch, I would select a 645 (Pentax, Mamiya, and Contax would be my first choices) and would probably never need any other film camera.

    If I were already shooting with Nikon digitals like you are, I would get a Nikon film camera so that I could share the lenses. I would consider any of the Nikon FM series cameras except the FM10. The Nikon FM2n that you are considering is a great choice. I would also consider the F100. My personal favorites, however, are the F2, F3, and F4 because they all work well with my older lenses and I need interchangeable viewfinders.

    The 85mm f/2 lens that you are considering is a great lens for the type of portraits I saw in your Flickr account. I shoot similar half-length and head & shoulder portraits with the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens.
     
  13. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    thanks narsuitus, going on the advice ive garnered i may just go down the nikon 35mm path
     
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  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I shoot both 35mm and MF. If I have to travel light and am willing to settle for snap shots and only a few Fine Arts photographs I will take the 35mm. Otherwise I will go for the MF and concentrate on Fine Arts photographs.

    But what do I know, I only have over 50 years of experience.

    Steve
     
  16. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    have i dissed your experience unknowingly? I hope not.

    someone made a good point that in some ways 35mm is too close to digi SLR, in the above example i would carry my digi SLR and if i wanted a proper delicious portrait my [insert 35mm or MF] camera. perhaps im starting to answer my own question
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    fontmoss,

    No, you did not diss my experience. My answers have also been based on my experience selling cameras and working for a small yellow box company in western New York state. I do not know wherther or not you heard of the company ...... Eastman Kodak.

    Steve
     
  18. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    Apologies, i havent heard of the company-im a scotsman living in madrid if thats any excuse?

    im seriously lured to the bronica ETRS but maybe its the siren's call...
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    When I was just getting serious about photograph I wanted the Bronica S is the worst way. I did not dare dream about Hasselblads. I shot Minolta SLRs for years. Then my girlfriend won a 28mm to 300mm zoom lens, and I had to buy a Nikon to use it on. Now because of the digitial revolution I brought a Hasselblad and four lenses.

    Choose your format based on what you are really looking for in the results and what you can afford. You can upgrade later when you have the money.

    The Bronica ETRS is a good place to start. Enjoy it and as you gain experience you will find your way. No one else can tell you want is best for you.

    Steve
     
  20. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

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    Looking at the faces/people section of your Flickr page it looks like you tend to prefer tightly cropped casual portraits by available light. Assuming that this would carry over to your film camera shooting, and based on your description that you would tend to use the film camera for portrait shots, and based on your concept of making the film experience different from your digital experience (slower paced, more contemplative I presume), it could be that a medium format SLR with a medium long focus lens (120mm, 150mm, or 180mm) might be your best bet. You could augment that with a second lens in the 80mm range. Your portrait lens should probably be relatively fast (f/2.8) to make best use of available light and for the option to minimize depth of field to emphasize the subject.

    A second option might be a Mamiya TLR with interchangeable lenses.

    A number of brands have been discussed. A wild card that has not been mentioned would be to get a Kiev 60 camera. (Let the shouting and criticism begin.) This is an inexpensive way to get into medium format, particularly because you can get some good lenses for relatively little money. The downside of buying a Kiev is that quality control of the camera bodies from the factory was poor. Consequently, there is some risk. One way to reduce your risk is to buy it used off the auction site, but only cameras that are described as having at least one of two treatments: 1) it has been upgraded by a company like Arax or others, or 2) it has a mirror lockup installed. The reason to look for mirror lockup (MLU) is that those cameras having mirror lockup have generally been worked over by the company who installed the mirror lockup to make them perform according to spec, something that you can't necessarily expect from a garden variety Kiev 60 camera.

    Prices vary tremendously on the auction site. However, if you are careful in your bidding you should be able to pick up an upgraded body with an 80mm lens for something in the range of $100, with shipping. Sometimes they go for less, and sometimes for quite a bit more.

    If you are careful in your bidding you can pick up a very good portrait lens (such as a 120mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biometar or 180mm f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar) for something in the range of $150-$300, with shipping. A 150mm f/2.8 Kaleinar will sometimes cost somewhat less.

    This is probably not the camera to choose if you are going to make your living with it, but it can be a good camera for an amateur photographer who wants to shoot medium format for his/her own pleasure.

    Some may recommend getting a medium format TLR camera. Given the interests your described, this might not be your best choice because most of these cameras have just a 75mm or 80mm lens, not generally the ideal choice if your interest is tightly cropped portraits. The Mamiya TLR is an exception because it has interchangeble lenses.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2009
  21. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I agree with this comment.

    For someone who has no experience in film, MF is perhaps a little too hard to start. I mean if you want to get into film processing and printing by yourself, I'm assuming you will, you have to learn the basics first somehow. And for that the 35mm format is perhaps easier/more familiar and cheaper/more cost effective.

    So, if I were you, I would take a slow step and get a Nikon 35mm film camera body, and like others already have said, share the same lens(s) with the digi kit, and later on, start searching for good MF stuff.

    Good luck.
     
  22. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    I will second the Kiev advice, with a few caveats:
    1) It is not the lightest camera around, if you are worried about weight.
    2) You need to get hold of a good one.
    3) You should flock the inside of the mirror box (inexpensive kits are available, it takes about 40 minutes careful work).
    4) There are several operating procedures (such as not letting the film advance snap back) which you should follow to avoid problems, all findable on the various sites devoted to the Kiev.

    I had a Kiev, before I replaced it with the Pentax 6x7 (I changed because of the format, not because of the camera).
    Mine was a "good" one (I bought it from a photo studio which had actually used it).
    Some of the lenses are outstanding (CZ 50mm and CZ 180mm), the rest mostly good (including both the CZ and Soviet 120mm). While not as brilliant as the 180, the 120 is much smaller and lighter.
    The Kiev also has *much* less mirror slap than the P6x7
     
  23. raizans

    raizans Member

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    if you want a camera to take portraits in dim bars, your d40 is pretty good for that already. i wouldn't bother with a 35mm slr; there would only be more grain.

    given more light, like from a window or outside in shady places, i'd recommend a 6x6 slr and a longish lens. you just strike me as a 6x6 kinda guy. these are some of the less costly ones:

    graflex norita 66, pentacon six tl, kowa six, bronica sq-a or sq-b, rolleiflex slx, hasselblad 500elx
     
  24. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    cheers guys, some specific references to what i shoot which is v handy.

    Raizans-yeah thinkin ill use my fuji s5 (digi) is for low light candid in dim bars and film camera (whether it's 35mm or MF) for better light/more posed stuff. Interesting what you say about 6x6 it'd def be my first choice but finances might push me towards ETRS
     
  25. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    Ok i think ive reached a decision.

    Im going to have a look for a cheap bronica SQB or ETRS for a little while (possibly in vain) ideally a SQB with 150mm lens but really something to get me started for around £200/250. I'm not going to break the bank to go MF but it is something that i think will work for me, i have a fixed short lens which i use 90% of the time on my DSLR which ill continue to use for low light candid stuff and also a f2.8 50-150 lens which is handy for portrait stuff with the digi. My thinking is that the MF offers something different, not that 35mm wouldn't but that MF is radically different and i can add to as and when i need to. It will be something I will take a long time to learn to use but ive found somewhere in the UK that processes a roll of 120 for the same price as 35mm although if time permits i will try and develop stuff myself.

    If it transpires that my budget won't permit a MF then I will look to get a manual 35mm set up, im sure ill get a huge kick out of any film format but MF has a powerful lure. Thanks for everyone's help and feel free to add more ideas.
     
  26. fontmoss

    fontmoss Member

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    Well it's done. Went over budget a bit but £270 posted has got me a bronica SQA with grip, 150mm lens and back. Lets hope it works ok and i can figure out how to use the thing!