Dilemma: I fell back in love with 35mm

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Klainmeister, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I have to get this off my chest since it's been on my mind the last handful of weeks. I've come across a serious error in my equipment, expectations, and process.

    Years ago, I felt 35mm wasn't giving me the crisp and smooth images that I thought I wanted. Oddly though, after a year or so of experimentation, I settled on Neopan 400 in 120 as my go to film, developed in PMK and printed with color heads on VC papers. Life was good. The images had a subtle amounts of grain, sharp edges, and overall the look I had created in my head of what I want my images to look like. Then, Neopan 400 died, so I switched to Acros 100 and Pyrocat. Combined with my Mamiya 7, the results were flawless--perfectly sharp, beautiful contrast, zero grain and easy to print.

    ....But then over the last couple of weeks I have been teaching my lady friend how to use film (converted her from a Nikon D80 to a Nikon FE and Canon AE-1), so I figured I'd shoot 35mm as well for shits and giggles; nothing serious. Except I found a serious problem: Acros 100 in 35mm form and Pyrocat re-created the look I have been searching for since the demise of Neopan 400 in 120. In fact, I went into the darkroom to print a picture of my buddy (attached) that I took with a $20 rangefinder. It looked great. I then tried to print it larger at 11x14--it looked even better!

    Then it hit me: I've been fixing my mistakes with 35mm by using a larger format, but now that my technique is better, 35mm does exactly what I want. And the Nikon FE is a so much fun to use, my Mamiya hasn't been touched. Have I been chasing the wrong tail the whole time?!

    So now I have a conundrum, where I really love the larger negs and potential for larger prints, I also love "not-perfect images". Grain, maybe not perfectly sharp, tonal transitions not perfect. It looks beautiful in not being perfect. I love 35mm!

    Ok, I got that off my chest. Now someone talk me into not selling my MF gear to get a Nikon FE with an epic set of lenses and spend the rest on a 8x10 wet plate setup.

    That's all, thanks for listening. :D
     

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  2. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Don't sell anything - just buy nikon FE and 50mm/2. This is great and cheap combo. Later you may regret selling :smile:.
     
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I started with 35mm, later went to large format, which is my favourite, but over the past few years I have also started to use 35mm again for some things.

    Since there are pluses and minuses to each format, there is nothing wrong with using multiple formats. Having said that, I also believe one should work to get as much as possible out of a particular format before deciding to move up a size. With careful technique, 35mm film can produce results most people would not think possible from a small negative. For a long time when I started photography, larger formats than 35mm simply weren't financially feasible for me. Instead, I worked my ass off practicing and figuring out ways of getting the maximum out of small format. It paid off big time when I finally moved up to sheet film.

    I think too many people write 35mm off without developing enough technique. They think bigger film will magically make better prints. The result is I often see prints from medium format all the way up to 5x7 film that might as well have been made with much smaller negatives.
     
  4. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    I'd keep using both -- unlike matters of the heart, when it comes to camera gear, monogamy is not an ethical requirement! :smile:
     
  5. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Well, I think that was my problem earlier on. I had yet to actually understand each step in the process and how they interact--after a few years I've become more competent as well as confident and now I just want to take pictures and forget about the equipment side of things. Acros 100, Pyrocat, Schneider Componon-s and I couldn't tell the difference between some of my MF formats at 11x14. It was gorgeous.

    Only reason I brought up the selling was because I really really want to start doing wet plates. Damn it!
     
  6. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Using LF cameras improved my 35mm photography hugely. All formats/cameras have their place and purpose.
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I wholeheartedly resonate with your experience!

    In the 1990s I shot 35mm Pentax cameras that I inherited from my dad. Like you, my technique wasn't very good, and I didn't get to print very often, so I was firing off a lot of shots in the dark, so to speak, developing them without really knowing what would come out the other end.
    A few years later a friend loaned me a Yashica TLR. That was fun, so I got a Rolleiflex. Loved the bigger square negative. But I liked the convenience of changing lenses. Enter a Mamiya 645. But square negatives are better :smile:, so enter a Hasselblad.
    Then I thought that if the 6x6 negative was so much 'better' than 35mm, what about 4x5? So I got a 4x5 Crown Graphic, and then I swapped that for a 4x5 Osaka (hand built in Japan). Just to make sure I wasn't missing anything I got a 5x7 Century as well.
    Guess what, though - my pictures didn't get any better.

    Then I got to try a Leitz enlarger, and my life was transformed. I have used thousands and thousands of sheets of paper over the years. Many of them go directly to the trash can. Getting this enlarger was like rediscovering my entire library of 35mm negatives. And, I found that my technique had improved significantly over the years, allowing me to eke a good deal of performance out of any camera or format.

    Today I have two great 35mm cameras, one great medium format camera, and I kept the 5x7 for shits and giggles. But I love shooting and printing 35mm these days. The quality of the enlargements is so high that I am never left wanting higher print quality. It's a little bit grainier than 6x6 is, but so what? Grain is supposed to be there. And with something like Acros I have a really hard time finding any grain in an 11x14" print, even 16x20" from more than a foot away. Or, I can use TMax 3200 and get really crisp and sharp grain that's beautiful. That sort of flexibility simply isn't obtainable with any other format, in my opinion, and that versatility in combination with the print quality has sold me on using 35mm a fair bit more than any other format. C'est la vie.

    But please don't sell your medium format equipment. Some day you will have a real urge to use it again.

    - Thomas
     
  8. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I can relate... all formats have their place.
     
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Good for you! 35mm is the hummingbird of formats, the do-anything, be-anywhere, versatile get-it-done format. Enjoy it. I hop between formats constantly, it help keep things fresh.

    Wet plate stuff can be done on the cheap, no need to forsake one to do the other.

    What about shooting slides in 35mm and enlarging to wetplate...
     
  10. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I am always tempted to try formats other than 35mm. Every time I do, I end up realizing that I'm just a 35mm guy. I'm pretty sure that medium format is not for me. Though I might try my hand at 4x5 some time :smile:
     
  11. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    Personally, I'm contemplating selling off my Canon FD gear to fund a RZ67 system. I have a 35mm rangefinder that does everything I want and I find myself rarely using my F-1n anyway, except for ultrawide shots. Since I can have all the focal lenghts on a RZ67, I'm leaning towards selling the 35mm interchangeable system.

    Will I regret it?
     
  12. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

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    Back when I was working in a commercial studio, the guy who owned the place would haul out his Blad and Tri-X for catalogue jobs. I would use my OM1 and Plus-X for the same stuff, and we couldn't tell the difference. What film you use matters. A lot.
     
  13. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    I just got a beater RB67 and 90mm lens, and I think I may be falling in love :smile:. I'll hang on to my Mamiya M645b stuff for hand held, and perhaps sell my Pentax 6x7 kit to help fund a couple more RB67 lenses.

    That being said, I should spend some more time with my 35mm gear, and see if I can tame the grain.
     
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  15. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I think it depends. Don't get me wrong, I still love MF, but the world has enough ultra high definition, large printed, BW images. I realized that many of my slides and bw shots with the Mamiya just as well might have come from a really high-end DSLR at the sizes I print them at. When I print 35mm, I get grain, smooth bokeh, beautiful transitions(not as smooth, but with a certain character)--and I love the look. It's imperfect, just like I want it. Look at the images posted in my gallery. Many of those I could blow up to 30x40" without grain or fault....yawn! Give me grain or give me death!
     
  16. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I have considered doing this, and actually, I think I might start here. I have a 4x5 being sent to me for free (buddy was shooting LF and now is back to 35mm as well) so I will be doing some 4x5 plates. I know it's still all analog, but printing from a slide seems almost like cheating to me.

    ...then again, things I photograph, there is no way without a mule or a team of paid friends that I could get an 8x10 wet plate from.
     
  17. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    There is absolutely no cheating involved. You are taking what you can from the scene and making a print according to your own artistic vision! Have fun. And n.b. 35mm slides enlarge spectacularly well... they were designed to :wink:
     
  18. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Most of mine are 6x7 Velvia taken with the Mamiya. To say they are beautiful is an understatement.
     
  19. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    As often as I've threatened to rid myself of all 35mm gear, I just can't do it. The gear is too convenient and portable as hell, and the film of choice enables me to make the enlargment sizes I prefer with no problems. I enjoy my Mamiya C series TLR's and love my 4xx5, but they are not as convenient to pack around when out farting around.
     
  20. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I have a lot of 56 x 72 Kodachrome PKR 64. Such a shame it's gone.
     
  21. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    I use the same reel as your friend in the picture.

    Im in the same boat. Keep on moving up film sizes because it was the look that I wanted but it also keep on getting less emotion and less emotion every film size that I moved up. I just bought my first 35mm camera and am really liking the images that are coming out of it. They are grainy and tell a story.

    I have also stopped worrying about the technical side as much because the technical side of the image does not matter if the pictures sucks in the first place, and a great picture that technically sucks in still a great image.
     
  22. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    Agree completely with E. von Hoegh about how large format teach you not only to take better photos but also how to process the film.
    I started shooting 35mm back in the early 70's and did not get a MF camera until around 2002, it then went LF first 4x5 and then 8x10
    Now i like to shoot anything between 35mm and 8x10.
    35mm is so refreshing when all you have used for a while is 8x10
     
  23. tessar

    tessar Subscriber

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    Don't sell that Mamiya! I've been photographing for a long time, began many years ago with a Nikon FE, gathered a few lenses over time, got a Mamiya TLR, gathered some lenses again, began large format with a Speed Graphic and am now learning 8x10 on an old Ansco with two ancient lenses. I shoot all formats depending on the subject and the kind of result I'm after. I really like having the choice. Nikon lenses that suit the FE are cheap now -- add others when you feel the need.
     
  24. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Yeah it's kinda funny. That camera was Minolta Hi-Matic 9 with Acros and I was taking a picture of my uncle catching a fish in the second boat behind us and just turned and shot my buddy since he looked so focused. I would have never felt the liberty to do that with th Mamiya (maybe i should!), and didn't even meter, just let the camera do the work. Oh, and it's barely in focus since I guessed the distance and pulled the shot while moving.

    I had bought a bike with a buddy--custom hand built steel frame, and he wanted to buy my half out. I asked what he had for trade and out came the Nikon FE in perfect condition with the 50mm 1.8 and filters. It was love at first sight. It's been a blast to use and now I just order 250 sheets of 5x7 paper to print from those rolls. I feel like I rediscovered my love for photography again!
     
  25. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    You have had an epiphany. Congratulations! You should definitely stick with 35mm as it gives you what you want. The medium format will only gather dust, so I'll be a sport and take it off your hands. How does $100 sound?
     
  26. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Maybe $150 since it has three lenses?