Dilemma

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Six, May 31, 2011.

  1. Six

    Six Member

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    I've got an unusual problem that I'm wondering if anyone else has gone through. I like the idea of using film, the high quality of medium format (I'm using a Mamiya 7 currently), and the 'mystique' of doing things 'the old way'. I have this romanticized vision of it, you might say.

    The problem is, when I actually go out to shoot, I'm so worried about missing the light or missing a particular shot that I can't pull myself away from my DSLR. I don't have a dedicated meter, so I take my 5D out with me, ostensibly as a meter only. So I'll take a few test shots with it once I find a composition I like, and the idea is to then switch to the Mamiya and copy the exposure settings from the DSLR. In reality, I never want to put the DSLR away because I'm so used to verifying everything on the LCD that I'm nervous about not recognizing an error on the Mamiya because I can't check anything after the shot.

    For people who have only ever shot film, I can see why this would seem preposterous. But I didn't get into photography until after the 'digital revolution', so I started with a modern, live-view enabled DSLR. I'm finding the transition to film...most difficult. I love the idea of using film, of getting away from the computer, of being more a craftsman than a photoshop geek, but putting that into practice is a PITA.

    I think my first step is to get a handheld light meter and leave the 5D at home to force myself not to use it, but does anyone have any other suggestions?
     
  2. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    Nailed it. Before long you'll be leaving the light meter at home too!
     
  3. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    I suggest you take an incident hand-held meter AND take your 5D with you, leaving the Mamiya at home for a few "exposure training" days.
    While taking pictures, you use your light meter (properly), see what the reflected matrix-whatever light meter of the 5D says, and if there is discrepancy take both exposure, which you will compare at home. You should take pictures directly in JPEG format for this kind of exercise.

    After a while of this practice, you'll have learned how to use an incident meter (very easy) or a hand-held reflected light meter (less easy as you have to take into account the average reflectance of the subject and estimate the angle of view of the instrument) and when you become proficient with it you will notice that in case of discrepancy the hand-held light meter will tend to give you better results.

    You will end up using only your hand-held light meter for your digital pictures. When that happens, you'll know you won't need your 5D any more and you will take your MF and your hand-held meter without fears of wrong exposures.

    And if you use negative film, especially B&W film, for most daylight shots, when the sun is more than 25° above the horizon, you can use the "sunny f/11" rule and will probably have a higher rate of good exposures than when relying on an in-camera meter.

    Look for "sunny f/16 rule" here on APUG. Normally the exposure would actually be f/11 or f/11 + 1/2 stop instead of f/16. When using negatives you always want to err on the overexposure side, so "sunny f/11" should work better. You adjust for the various conditions (side light, open shade, veiled sun). You end up with apertures between f/4 and f/11, that's only 4 stops of interval. You'll have to "learn" by eye estimation those 4 light conditions.

    Another exercise: walk around in a sunny day without any camera, only your light meter, imagine what exposure you would use based on the "sunny f/11" rule, and then take the measure of the light using an incident light meter.
    Do this for an entire day or two. You will get a very clear perception that estimating exposure by sight is actually quite easy in normal daylight conditions.

    Exposure is something to be very careful about only when using slides or digital. When using negatives you have ample room for mistakes. No need to carry with you a 5D and all the chimping.

    Fabrizio
     
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  4. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    I'd say leave the digital at home and set the goal to shoot with errors and pleasant surprises. With digital it's easy to blow out the highlights; film is more flexible. The fun is in experimentation at the time of shooting.
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I do both, too.

    One thing about film is (B&W at least), while you can't see what you just took, it has so much more latitude in exposure that even if you mess it up a bit, you can still get images that are quite good. You could miss the exposure by 2 stops or more and you can get nice prints. You could probably over-expose more than two stops and still be fine. I hear color film has even more latitude but I do not shoot color in film, so I don't know.

    I have light meters also but unless the shot is really tricky, I don't use it. I just let my F-100 and M645Pro with metering prism do the metering, do some correction if/when necessary and shoot.

    As far as I know, Mamiya 7 has a built-in meter. Can you not use that and make adjustment as you see fit (such as in backlit conditions, etc)???
     
  6. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    The lightmeter in the M7 seems decent to me. Just point it at something you want to be generally close to middle gray in the scene and adjust. Takes all but 5 seconds. I swear it acts like a 5 or 10 degree spot, so just keep that in mind. Otherwise, start shooting off rolls!
     
  7. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    As others alluded to, the exposure latitude depends on the type of film. The most latitude is with color negative film, especially with overexposure. It's almost impossible to expose so much you ruin a shot on color neg. For this purpose chromogenic B&W like XP2 is the same as color neg. Black and white is second. It will tolerate some overexposure or a lot on the case of modern T grain films but you will get an increase in grain, which probably isn't much of an issue with your medium format camera. Color transparency is very unforgiving and actually has more latitude on the underexposure side than for overexposure.

    All of which is a long winded way of saying that unless you are shooting transparencies you likely have a lot more latitude for error than you are used to with your DLSR.

    I think you have the right idea. Just get a good handheld meter and go out without the DSLR. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
     
  8. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    My Mamiya 7 has a built in meter which is very good. Why aren't you using the one in your camera? The built in meter is like any meter, you need to learn when it is lying to you. But for most shots, it will give great results.

    If you can't leave the digital behind, then take it out and use it once to find out the exposure. Put it away in your bag and zip it in there. You will not need to change exposure on your Mamiya until the light changes.

    Learn the sunny f/16 rule. I have been shooting for decades and I still use it on most shoots--if not to set the exposure, at least as a check to make sure my meter is not off for some reason. For example, last year I went down the Grand Canyon. My meter was all over the place and I relied on the f/16 rule. I finally figured out why my meter was off. I was wearing a thick, broad brimmed hat which shielded the meter at times and caused inconsistent readings.

    All this is called learning. For now, be more concerned with learning than getting the best result on each shot. The more you pay attention to the light and evaluate your results, the better your exposure and photographs will be in the long run.
     
  9. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Yep, that's the big drawback for people that are only use to DSLR's. Now if you had been shooting say a Nikon F5 instead, well then there would be no problem, cause the metering system will almost never fail. But when using something meter-less, of course get the meter and learn to take a proper reading and just take a couple of shots either side. At least your not shooting 4x5 at A $1 a sheet for B&W or $2.50 for color, so burn some film and support the industry and enjoy.
     
  10. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    I don't know that camera so didn't realize it has a built in meter. What they said: use it. :wink:
     
  11. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Learn to use the sunny 16 system and leave the light meter and digi at home. I started shooting film in the 60's and didn't have a meter, ruined alot of shots at first, but ended up nailing most of them. Its simple and foolproof(but not idiot proof, dang)and results can be thrilling when you figure out how it works.Almost all my favorite cameras are devoid of meter, and allow me to concentrate on composition and not the meter.
     
  12. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Go here and print the 2 charts near the bottom: http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm

    Then leave your digital and/or meter at home. I started doing this a couple of years ago and now use the meter mostly indoors. I still make lots of mistakes but am no longer afraid of them.
     
  13. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    You need to stop worrying about missing the shot. It's gonna happen. It still happens to people with decades of film experience. The important thing is to know why you missed the shot. Take good notes. Compare what you shot with the notes. Use what you learn the next time you shoot. Like anything else, there's a learning curve to shooting film. Don't let it intimidate you. Embrace it.
     
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  15. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I thought more about OP's post and sort of read between the lines....

    Are you in a generation where you've NEVER shot film and afraid, if you aren't so careful, you'll end up with no images what-so-ever because you can't look behind your camera and verify? I'm thinking you are....

    If this is the case, you should know that before the age of digital, perhaps before you were even born, that's all we had. Everybody including people who only know to "push the button" took pictures using film. Some cameras only had one shutter speed and no aperture control. They still got usable images. Missing the shot because of exposure problems were rare. Granted, they weren't perfect images but still quite good. You can still buy these cameras in form of disposable cameras.

    If my guess applies to you, my suggestion is for you to get few rolls of film, leave the DSLR at home, and just shoot few rolls using nothing more than Mamiya 7's built-in meter. You'll be pleasantly surprised, your fears are unfounded. You have one of the most advanced medium format range finder camera available today. It'll be fine.

    You *could* get light meter but unless you use it correctly, it won't help you at all. I don't even think you need it at this point in your film adventure.
     
  16. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    You are the 2nd new-from-digital guy this week to mention "live-view".

    What is this?
     
  17. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Live View is a relatively new feature in modern DSLRs. In this mode, the mirror is flipped up (except for some Sony implementation). You get what the CCD/CMOS sensor see on LCD at real time. In essence, turns DSLR into regular point-and-shoot type camera in term of mechanics. While this is happening, the view finder (the regular one) is blocked out.

    Think of it as a digital ground glass. :tongue::tongue::D:D:blink::blink:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2011
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Another thing to consider- your digital camera's built-in meter was designed around the sensitivity of the chip in the camera, which is very different than the sensitivity of your film. Digital ISO 100 is NOT the same as film ISO 100 - I've seen this on multiple cameras across different brands. It's even more startlingly true comparing across digital cameras. I was taking a portrait photography class and we had about six or seven digital camera models spanning three manufacturers (Canon, Nikon and I think there was an Olympus in there too), and you could set all of them on ISO 100 and use the settings from the flash meter, and find 2/3 of them overexposed and 1/3 underexposed using the meter's settings. So quit using your digital camera as a meter for anything other than your digital camera!
     
  19. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    TKAMIYA - thank you. I can see how that could become a crutch, truly unnecessary, but the loss of which would bother somebody who is new to rangefinders or tlr's.
     
  20. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    When I first worked in a projection booth it was often daunting to try to learn how to run the shows without mistakes. After all, there were paying customers in those seats!

    First, I'd try to get through the day without having to reframe or adjust the focus. No misthreads. No sound problems. Just get through the day "clean."
    It took a few months to get to just that level. After doing it for over 15 years it's as easy as falling off a bicycle. Nowadays, I can run an entire 20-plex by myself for 12 hours straight with only an hour break for lunch and an hour break for dinner. No foul-ups.

    When I get trainees and they are hesitant because they are afraid to make mistakes I remind them that they might have only threaded 10 shows in their lives but I have threaded 100,000 shows. There WILL be mistakes when you are that new but the only way the student is going to learn how to run movies is to actually run movies. That's why I'm there; to help.

    Similar thing for you. The only way to learn to shoot film is to shoot film so go out there and burn up some film.

    Get out there and put a couple-few dozen rolls of film through that camera. Don't worry if you foul up some pictures. Even when you make mistakes you learn something.

    Remember, the only picture that isn't any good is the picture that you DIDN'T take!
    Are you willing to pass up that once in a lifetime, "million dollar photo" because you are afraid to click the shutter?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl
     
  21. Six

    Six Member

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    Heh, not quite *that* young. I'm 25. I used film cameras when I was younger, but I didn't get into photography as a real hobby until 2 years ago. I'm not afraid of not getting *anything*, I'm just worried about not getting the best that I possibly can out of a scene. Driving a few hours to someplace in particular for photography purposes only to make a technical error isn't my idea of a good time haha. I know it happens, but it's still not fun.
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    1: Get a meter and leave the gadget at home.
    2: Realize that your current shotgun method of photography is a dilution of effort. Become a sniper, not a machine gunner. Your aim will improve immensely. In general, the less you shoot the better your photographs will become, because you will really need to think about exactly what you are spending time and effort on. Because of forced economy, you will learn to pick the best shots, and of those show the best of the best. Renowned classic photographers didn't make much garbage, because it was inefficient to do so. DSLR's for all their positives carry with them the propensity to create the equivalent of vast quantities of photographic vomit. Film tend to create vurps, at worst.
     
  23. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I think you just need some practice to build up the confidence in your equipment. My recommendation is still grab some film, go out and shoot and see. You could go somewhere local for an afternoon, not a big trip. You have a really nice equipment already.
     
  24. Ambar

    Ambar Member

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    I've been through the same thing as you have.. Started out with a cropped DSLR and loved it (still do, and I still use it). Eventually I moved to shooting film for similar reasons as you have, and have never looked back. Digital has it's place, but when I want to have fun and/or work on my artistic side.. I go for film, always.
    I find many of my friends (as I did myself), have a similar reaction to yours. A certain level of anxiety due to the lack of feedback from the camera. You take the picture and the camera remains "silent"!
    Learn to trust it.. The picture is in there!! Believe it!! It looks like black magic (and in some ways it is).. all that matters is, press the button and don't worry.. It's in there!
     
  25. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    With this in mind, I would invest in a good incident light meter. A Sekonic L-308 serves me well, and I got an older mode for ~$50 on ebay. It even has flash metering if I need it. The Sekonic L-398A is a much nicer meter to use, but it won't do low light very well. And I like the suggestion of using the meter with your DSLR at first. Or carry all three- DSLR, Mamiya 7, and the meter. Take a reading, set the DSLR for it, see what the histogram does. If it is blocked up a bit on the highlights, don't worry. Take a film shot, then compare the two when the film is ready.

    Whether you do something like I say, something else, or just stumble around for a bit more, remember that it took all of us time to learn to expose film properly. With digital, getting decent results from the first shot is not difficult. With film, making mistakes was expected. And each mistake was (oh geez, I hate saying this, but...) a learning experience. The feedback wasn't immediate, but it was there, and it was very real. Sometimes painfully real.

    Another point- traveling a few hours to shoot with a camera you haven't got a handle on is a recipe for failure. Practice and make your mistakes on local, low-pressure shooting before making a larger investment (of time, money, client goodwill, whatever) that could very easily go bad.
     
  26. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    ++

    "You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it's all about. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot."
    The Deer Hunter