HELP! 35mm IS taking over my medium format!

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by F/1.4, Oct 23, 2011.

  1. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    So I'm in a bit of a quarrel of formats..

    I bought a Mamiya 645 AFD about 6 months ago, intending to use if for the sole purpose of portraiture. Once I got a good feel for it with my own dinking around, I started using it for professional work.

    WOW! The negatives and scans were amazing...when they were in focus.

    BUT...Repeatedly I would miss shots because either the AF couldn't lock on fast enough (if at all), and if it wasn't the AF, the shutter lag was just horrendous..I kept missing shot after shot after shot, and at about $1.50/exposure my profits were being eaten up like candy. I began to loathe shooting with it because it was clunky and expensive.

    SO, I started using my F100 more and more when I wanted the shot to count, until I got to the point where I just don't even use the Mamiya anymore.

    The Nikon's AF is much faster, smoother, more reliable, almost no shutter lag, much smaller, less intimidating, shoots more pictures, and is MUCH cheaper to shoot.

    BUT..The pictures generally aren't crisp like the Mamiya (when it's in focus, mind you), and grain is much more intrusive.

    The films I generally shoot are either Portra 400 or 400H (depending on my mood).



    I really want to keep shooting film, it's working so great for me. I can have a consistent look/style and i'm starting to get a reputation for being a film shooter. It's gotten me work!

    But I hate shooting with the Mamiya and I'm thinking of selling it, along with one of my F100's for a Nikon F6.

    I've got some film that's enroute to RPL to get souped and scanned in. I shot some tests with my patient girlfriend with the Mamiya AND F100 just to have a more exact, straight comparison.

    I'm thinking,

    Pros:
    Mamiya 645AFD--------------Nikon F6
    Big negs-----------------------fast burst rate
    DOF control with 80mm---------smooth, reliable AF
    Can shoot digital---------------cheaper to shoot
    .........................-------------no shutter lag
    .........................-------------stronger body
    .........................-------------better viewfinder
    .........................-------------weight savings
    .........................-------------quiet (for the most part)


    Cons:
    Mamiya 645 AFD--------------- Nikon F6
    Lousy AF------------------------small format
    Lousy MF (with AF80mm)---------not as sharp
    Expensive to shoot---------------grainier
    long shutter lag------------------.................
    fewer exposures per roll----------.................
    poor metering indication----------.................
    loud-----------------------------.................
    awkward to hold-----------------.................



    My question for all the APUG'rs:
    Do you think it's crazy to give up the 645AFD in favor of an F6? I really want to like the Mamiya, but I just can't. I like the end result, I just don't like shooting with it. I really want to get an F6, but I'm not sure if the quality is up to the challenge quite yet.

    So far, it seems like most clients have been OK with the quality, but I did have a couple clients complain about the pictures being blurry and grainy. They were perfectly in focus, it's just that I was shooting at f/1.4 and film doesn't have that digital sharpness, not to mention 400 speed 35mm film is grainy compared to MF or digital.

    I'm torn on whether to just suck it up and try to make the Mamiya work, or try to see what I can squeeze out of 35mm.

    I do not want to shoot digital.

    I can't think of any wedding/portrait photographers that shoot primarily 35mm, they're all Medium format(on a Contax 99% of the time) or digital.

    Thanks in advance :smile:
     
  2. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    What sort of shooting are you doing? Do you absolutely require auto focus or can you slow it down and go manual?

    Can you add light to the scene and shoot slower film?
     
  3. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    I've used a Mamiya 645 Super for nearly 20 years and never had trouble like you're seeing. I suspect that autofocus is not really good on medium format cameras. My 645 is manual focus. Unfortunately, the 645AF is probably a bitch to manually focus, like AF 35mm and digital cameras are. I haven't used one though, you might try switching off the AF
     
  4. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Also consider the Pentax 645n or 645nII. The autofocus is reputed to be superior to either the Mamiya or Contax 645's, especially in low light. The Pentax AF lenses manual focus smoothly. I don't know how shutter lag compares, but I figure the Pentax is good in that regard, as I didn't notice a problem when I tried one (a 645n).
     
  5. Excalibur2

    Excalibur2 Member

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    erm I thought these days most pros use a digital camera for work and sometimes a film camera for pleasure and relaxation.
     
  6. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    You should shoot Pan F+... Pan F+ and Nikon F6 is a very nice combo. I have a Nikon F6 and it's my first choice of camera for 35mm. I'm a freak and shoot handheld 4x5 like its cheap 35mm :tongue:
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    He's not most pros. He's one who understands quality!

    I don't think I would bother with auto focus for portrait work though.


    Steve.
     
  8. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I think you are simply learning that getting the $#&@ing shot in the first place, and getting it in focus, counts for a lot more than the shot's technical details in terms of sharpness, grain, etc. IME, it's consideration number one of picking a camera for a specific purpose. IMO, if you cannot get what you want with medium format, get rid of it, or use it for more suitable subjects. A camera is worse than useless if working with it is causing you to miss timing and focus. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want to focus on and exactly when you want to click the shutter, but stumbling over the camera and missing it.
     
  9. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Hey look I love my RZ, but there are things it won't do. Split-second snapshots and night portraits are two examples, hence I still have a DSLR with 85/1.4, AF and stabilisation that I can shoot by the light of a single candle. Sure it's not going to print out nearly as good as 6x7 Acros or something but the latter just does not have the sensitivity to get those shots. Use the right tool for the job - sometimes it's medium format, sometimes it's large format ... sometimes it's not.

    But yes, you can do portraits with the Mamiya (see all the good wedding shots taken 1960-2000) but it takes practise, forethought, preparation, and more practise. Flashes and good light are a huge help because they mean you can stop down a bit - a small (60cm) softbox with a good hotshoe flash in it can achieve f/16 to f/22 at 1m, which means an easy f/16 at 2m and ISO400 (flash as main light). If you're in bright open shade, that's about f/5.6-light, so you shoot at f/16 1/125 and the shade light becomes your fill at -1: instant beautiful outdoor portrait, just add 81B! You can set it up and work that one exposure with no further thought for a couple hours, with enough DOF to cover minor focus issues.

    And $1.50/shot? That's like $23/roll on 645 - what are you doing!? Even in Australia (the land of incredibly high prices), I can buy C41 from the US for $5/roll and pay a lab to develop it for $7 (DIY for $2). Cheaper still for B&W.
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    +1

    If a tool is keeping you from getting the job done, get rid of it.

    With regard to client expectations, do you show them examples of what to expect?

    The few times that I have been bit on this its been because I didn't do a good job before the shoot of explaining what I provide, really showing my style and my prints.

    The clients were simply in the market for a product I didn't offer and I didn't spot that problem in time, I was too hungry for the sale.

    You have identified the problems, every machine of every type has, for lack of better descriptors, a personality and a skill set.

    The question is really are you willing to adjust to get the MF advantages.

    It is my understanding that Jose Villa actually uses both the Contax and 35mm. The 35mm for the faster candid work, the Contax for (my words here) the money shots.

    Jose will actually direct the action when needed for the money shots.

    This isn't the classic formals by any stretch nor is it the normal PJ style so many shoot today. If the couple does something fun that he couldn't get, he'll have them do it again.

    His direction also comes in the form of nudging clients into situations that give him the shots he sold them.

    Because he is willing direct when needed, he's not in so much of a rush and can keep his shot count down and still get exactly the what he needs to get on MF.
     
  11. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    What are you shooting at 1.4? Your DOF is going to be so narrow everything IS going to look blurry. Most fast lenses don't live up to peoples expectations when opened all the way, stop it down and your AF will speed up because now it has something to lock onto. Also learn how to shoot manually before relying on AF. I have maybe one or two AF cameras that rarely if ever get used because I like to shoot manual. When I am out and about I have my lens set for light and distance. I know the effective range of my lens and I do not shoot past that. Seven feet is about the farthest out I shoot because I shoot from the hip and I have learned to judge distance well enough to be able to get the shot.

    Stop the lens down and try again.
     
  12. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    Other than his user name I see no indication that he is shooting at f/1.4. I am not aware of a medium format lens that fast anyway. The fastest I am aware of is the 1.9 manual focus for the 645.

    If fast auto focus is very important for your work, then 35mm is the way to go. OTOH, if the problem is that the medium format autofocus is WRONG, but you don't necessarily need it to be that fast, just go manual focus medium format.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The F100 normlly autofocuses at full open aperture.
     
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  15. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    Consider going manual focus. As much as I'd like to like autofocus I actually find it slower and an impediment to my method of shooting than manual focus.
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The AFD has garbage autofocus. I used it in manual mode almost all the time. Eventually sold it and prefer the 645 pro. I think the newer AFDs have much better AF but still, you're not going to get anything nearly as good as Nikon AF, let's face it.

    I did do some sports with the AFD but it was in manual focus mode!!! Yeah, the AF was just annoying. But I did find the focus confirmation very useful.

    I would suggest going for 35mm for bumblebee work, when you need to move around a lot and focus quickly. And use 645 or go to a larger format e.g. 6x7 for the times that you can manually focus and compose at your leisure.

    Different tools for different purposes. Too often people think they can treat a 645 like a 35mm and scan frames and get a bajillion pixels etc... nah, a 35mm camera is a completely different tool in almost every way. Don't feel guilty for selecting the tool best suited for a particular purpose. There are plenty of things I could only do with 35, and likewise there are things I could only do with a view camera. That's life.

    If you must have an AF medium format camera and like the 35mm feel then consider the Fuji GA645Zi rangefinder. I have successfully done sports with that, even. It's noisy as heck but fun and way lighter and smaller than an AFD.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2011
  17. film_man

    film_man Member

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    Your problem is that you try so use the 645 as if it was a 35mm camera. AF on medium format is for the patient and subjects that, preferably, don't move. If you are trying to do focus tracking or whatever, just focus manually and get over it. If you really do need AF then shoot the 35mm and sell the Mamiya. Simple as that.

    As for those you say are shooting weddings with a Contax 645, I've read interviews of a few of them and they all said they focus manually.

    So don't expect that dropping a few $$$$ on a Contax is going to solve your problem.
     
  18. fstop

    fstop Member

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    Use the medium format camera for portraits and formal shots, use the 35mm for action and candids.
     
  19. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Nobody else seems to have mentioned this so maybe I am wrong but I would have doubts that the F6 will give you anything in the way of higher resolution or better prints in the same size compared to the F100.

    If you have your heart set on the F6 and it does have some advantages over the F100 in certain circumstances then go for it but you might be disappointed if you expect it to deliver the same advantages in terms of prints as MF as well as having the advantage of fabulous AF as the added bonus.

    pentaxuser
     
  20. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    From what I gathered, the OP seems to like shooting wide open all of the time.

    My point being, shooting wide open be it MF or 35 will be blurry/grainy, even the fastest Leica lenses will do so. A narrow DOF has it's place but not where there is action. It is best suited for the studio or art shots.
     
  21. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    This is purely a style choice, I'm a "2.8 and be there" type shooter myself. This is easy and fast with the F100 or N90s in AF and very doable even with my FM2.

    It does take some practice but I shot my daughter's sports this way for years. I shoot ski racing on occasion and rarely stop down further than f/4.
     
  22. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree!

    Jeff
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Have you investigated switching out the focussing screen for the "Microprism Type C" screen designed to be used with the manual focus lenses? I'm assuming that it will aid in manual focussing with the AF lenses also.
     
  24. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    You're right, sorry. I missed that because I just skimmed after the list of pros and cons. You're right, 1.4 is going to be very, very demanding of focus, but that has to be 35mm only because I don't know of a 645 lens anywhere near that fast.
     
  25. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    I realize that MF lenses don't even touch 1,4 but when you take into consideration that a 90mm lens in MF is equivalent to a 50mm lens in 35mm, not much difference. Still, the fact of shooting wide open doesn't work well with action shots.
     
  26. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    In the op's case, shooting weddings and portraits, the action is generally slow. The subjects are normally walking slow, standing or sitting and they have very predictable destinations.

    Even in fast paced sports the magic is simply knowing/predicting where and when the subject will be.