How and Why Did You Choose Your Format?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by zenrhino, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    Why do you shoot the format you use most often?

    I understand that a lot of folks shoot more than one format, but I'm guessing most folks gravitate towards one single format most of the time. And while variety is the spice of life, there's a lot to be said for hunkering down and getting really good at one thing.

    In doing a better/faster/cheaper analysis, LF wins hands down for better but not at all for faster/cheaper.

    MF seems to be a really great compromise, but then there's the 645, 6x6 or 6x7 question (not to mention 6x9 and exotics).

    35mm wins for faster/cheaper but not for better (unless one is willing to go for Leica/Zeiss glass, it seems?)

    But, there's always more to it than better/faster/cheaper.

    If you use a format because of its compsitional or artistic merits rather than cost or tech qualities or whatever, why?

    Horses for courses and all that, but I'm wondering why people who have chosen made the choices they did, especially the art photographers.

    Thanks!

    Clint
     
  2. KenM

    KenM Member

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    I wanted movements to be able to alter the plane of focus, so that meant sheet film. I wanted a big negative, on film that will be available for the foreseeable future, so 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, etc. I'm also lazy, that meant that anything larger than 4x5 was out. :D So, 4x5 it was, and still is. It's my primary camera for 'art' photography. I have a dig for family outings....

    But I also have a 6x45, and a 6x7. Which I also consistently use. For art.

    As you say, horses for courses :smile:
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Cheapest in equipment choices would have been LF I think.

    I like a certain type of format. 35mm,645,6x9,5x7. They look best to me for most things.

    35mm has all the goodies. Motordrive,ttl and ttl flash,AF.

    645 has the goodies to plus a bigger negative with higher quality.

    My 6x9 is fairly basic in terms of added features. But that big negative.

    5x7 is of course even bigger.

    So it depends.

    Which to use depends on what you're photographing.
     
  4. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    My principle for years was "Use the biggest camera that you have time for." Recently I have got increasingly antipathetic to the idea of carrying heavy equipment and more and more sympathetic to the idea of capturing as much spontaneity as possible, so it's 35 mm most of the time and otherwise a 3x4 Crown Graphic with a 6x9 cm rollfilm back!
     
  5. Glenn M

    Glenn M Member

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    35mm cheaper? Not really... I have more invested in my rarely used 35mm system than I do for my medium format or large format equipment. Canon "L" lenses cost about the same or more than lenses for medium or large format cameras. And used MF or LF cameras can be picked up quite cheaply.

    Reasons for my choices on what format to use:

    Large format 4"x5" for landscapes, scenics, or architecturals when the light is "just right," there's ample setup time, and hopeful the images captured will be wanted for large prints. Always used on a tripod.

    Medium format for the exact same usages as above, but with less setup time available, not as perfect light conditions, or multiple films are wanted to be used for the scene (by changing backs... usually carry 3 different backs with different films), and ease of use. Always used on a tripod.

    35mm film used for action, or street, or photography "on the run" where tripods can't be easily used, or the use of the motor drive is essential. Hand held or used on a monopod.

    Digital Point & Shoot for generic shots, grab shots, or for pretesting settings prior to burning sheet film.
     
  6. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    It's what works for how I want to interpret the subject matter. Format is simply one of the tools we use. One day I'm shooting with an 8x10 camera, then next a half-frame 35 mm, and the next digital. In the end it doesn't matter, as long as the image works.
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Well, my dad gave me his Rolleiflex when he up-graded to an Instamatic 804 in the 1970's for the family snapshots.

    I used it (without knowing it) just like a view camera...tripod, f22, viewed on a ground glass, landscapes, hand-held meter, etc. So moving to LF was a natural feeling move for me. I have migrated 4x5 to 5x7 to 8x10, and also use the 8x10 as a 4x10.

    No particular love or hate for the 8x10 proportions...it is what is there, so I happily make the most of it. I enjoyed the 5x7 proportion even more. The 4x10 (same proportions as 7x17) is a wonderful sweep of light across the frame.

    Vaughn

    PS...the "better/faster/cheaper analysis" is really only valid when applied to a specific set of job/image requirements. If one needs to adjust multiple planes (film/lens), 35 does not work, nor does the "really great" compromise of MF.
     
  8. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    I mostly shoot 135 although I like medium format (6x6) as well. However, it's probably at least 10:1 in terms of films shot with each format. I would like to make a permanent move to medium format, but it's not financially viable for me at the moment (even used - I'm an amateur and make no money from my photography). Interestingly enough, while I'm happy with the frame size in 135, I find I don't like anything rectangular in medium format. I really compose much better in a square format (something I've just come to realize). The other problem is weight. I travel a lot and have to carry my gear wherever I go -- and when I need to carry gear for 12+ hours a day I have to make some hard choices as to what comes with me and what stays behind (I don't usually rent cars and have to rely on my feet or public transport to get around). While I would love to make the move to large format (4x5) it doesn't make any sense for me to do so since I don't have access to an enlarger for that format and I have yet to learn any kind of contact printing process. And since I'm not likely to make mural-sized enlargements anyway, it seems a moot point. Finally, even though I like to shoot landscapes (great for a larger format system), most of my shooting is in cities and on the go and it's much more practical for me to carry smaller cameras.

    And I wouldn't necessarily say larger is better (even though I do yearn for it). ;-) I've been reading Barry Thornton's book and he makes a strong argument for the merits (and weaknesses) of every format. It's easy to get caught up in the bigger is better (or newer technology is better in the d-cam world), but I've seen amazing photos from point and shoot cameras and pretty lousy ones from large format ones. It's not just the photographer and his/her camera. It's what works better for YOU with the subject matter you want to shoot.

    rachelle
     
  9. jgcull

    jgcull Subscriber

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    I use my 35's most because I can move the fastest with them, and the FM2 more than the F100. I prefer manual. I love using the Hasselblad, but hate that cumbersome, heavy tripod and I don't do well handheld.

    I liked my old Nikon FG best of all, but it broke. One day I'll replace it.

    Janet
     
  10. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    I took a different approach. I bought a medium format camera I could afford and it happened to be a Mamiya 645 1000s. I used the hell out of it and got used to it, which wasn't too difficult considering I went from 35mm to 645.

    I wanted a bigger negative so I bought a RB67. Again, it was the least expensive 6x7 setup I could find so I bought it. I've used the hell out of that camera so now I feel completely comfortable with all 3 formats that I use.

    As others have said, each camera is used for a different purpose. I don't have one format I stick to.

    LF interests me, but not enough to buy one.

    Not just yet anyway...
     
  11. drpsilver

    drpsilver Subscriber

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    20 Mar 2008

    My preferred format was 35mm mainly because it is compact. I still use it for the longer hikes that I take for landscape work. With that said I have found myself taking the 4x5 out into the field, and away from the car, to do landscape work. I have found myself somewhat "addicted" to the large negative. A 35mm negative now looks so small. It is the control of the image (mainly movements) that I like about LF. It as allowed me to "expand my wings" and to do things not possible with a fixed back camera. Consequently, the Hasselblad has not seen much film recently. The Hasselbald has always been a struggle for me because I am used to seeing the world in a rectangular viewfinder/ground glass, and the square format really confuses me.

    I agree with mooseontheloose in that every format has advantages and disadvantages. These will very depending on the subject that you are trying to photograph.

    Regards,
    Darwin
     
  12. ellisson

    ellisson Subscriber

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    Like others, I use and enjoy a variety of formats, depending on the situation. I prefer to work with larger negatives (to a point), because of ease of handling and processing. But for travel and photographing people in various settings away from home, 35mm works the best for me. I do not think the format per se limits the quality. My limitations have more to do with time, patience, and getting to know my subject(s).
     
  13. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    In my retirement quest to learn more about photography I had just moved up from 35mm to 6x7cm four years ago. Lois Conner came to the University of Akron to lecture on her China trips, critique the Advanced Photography classes, and do a platinum workshop. I fell in love. Along the way I learned that I also liked 8x10 enlarged to 20x24. I have stayed with silver rather than platinum. My real love is 7x17 contact prints. The detail in these plus the w-i-d-e format really excite me. I would like to try 12x20, but at 68 I feel it is simply larger and heavier than I can handle.

    John Powers
     
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  15. mgonzale

    mgonzale Member

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    My photography life story:

    I shot 35mm for a few years without taking it too seriously. I decided I wanted to step up my game and started taking some photo classes at the local community college. After a few semesters, I realized that as my technique and artistic maturity grew I was still unhappy with the quality of my 35mm prints and got a Kiev 88 and then a Bronica GS-1. It was a big shock to see how great prints could be...

    A few years in that mode and then I started to realize that there could be a solution to the DOF issues I have been encountering in my MF landscapes. That has brought me to trying out 4x5 with a cheap Burke and James. I'm still seeing how I like it.

    As far as what I shoot mostly these days, it's usually the Bronica (6x7) for anything that doesn't involve people.
     
  16. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Like many, 35mm was my only format fo many years (I can still remember when I owned only one camera).

    After a brief flirtation with that other technology, I started buying old cameras e.g. 6x6 Rolleicord and other TLRs, Bronica ETRS 6x4.5, then a Mamiya RB67 6x7.

    Then I realised that I could build a 5x4" camera - so I did.

    I have not got any larger than this yet but I'm sure I will one day.

    So I don't really have a format of choice but I do go through phases of prefering various formats.


    Steve.
     
  17. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I've shot everything from 35mm to 8x10 (I have 11x14, just haven't used it yet). Like Walt (Pinholemaster), it's very much the right tool for the image, but the one I use the most is my 5x7 studio camera. It's a big honking beast of a machine, and it takes up tons of space in my studio, but it is the best tool for what I want to do, and it suits my way of working and seeing (I'm so used to working with it that I don't even think about the fact that the image is upside down and backwards on the ground glass anymore - a 35mm slr feels strange now, actually, because the image is upright and right-way round).
     
  18. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    I started with 35 mm because I could do what I wanted to, at the time, within my tiny budget with it but not with half-frame 35 mm or 6x6. At the time a Pen FT and a Hasselblad were the alternatives. I needed an SLR to shoot moving subjects closeup. The Pen FT is lovely but in some ways a sick joke; the 'blad was far out of range.

    Since the early '90s I've drifted towards 2x3 because I can do somethings better with 2x3 than with 35 mm, but continue to use 35 mm where it wins. I'm not seriously contemplating moving up in format again -- the next step is probably 5x7 -- because 2x3 is good enough at what I use it for and because of the costs. The costs are measured in $ and aching backs.
     
  19. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I guess I'm unusual in having *started* with MF as a kid. My dad managed a camera shop, and when I was about 9 or 10, he picked up a used Rolleiflex for himself and a 'cord for me, reasoning that if I was actually interested I should learn on a simple but good-quality camera where everything was manual.

    So either I like the 6x6 format because it's what I grew up using, or he happened to hit on a format that really worked for me. That Rolleicord is still probably the camera I use the most, although since I discovered old folders, they've been getting quite a workout because of the convenience factor. (You can't really put a Rolleicord in your pocket.)

    -NT
     
  20. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    I 've been through most formats up to 4x5 or 5x4 in England :smile: That said, I have really found my comfort zone with the square format. I feel that it gives me the best flexibility, and gives me the quality I strive for. It has taken me a long journey and a ton of dough invested to figure this out though. I do still use the 4x5, but it has been getting less use lately. I believe it has a place in my tool shed so to speak, and although a larger format may be nice (say an 8x10) I doubt I will be move in that direction. My current equipment inventory is consistent, and I am completely comfortable using the two medium format and one large format systems I have. Some folks are always looking for the next best gadget and gizmo or silver bullet. I fell into that category during my early photgraphic journey, but not anymore. It was the Fay Godwin workshop I had the priviledge of attending back in 1992 that truly changed my outlook on photographic gear. Fay had a very distinct dislike of too many technical details and carrying too much gear around. She said that her best shots were when she was not really thinking about technique and equipment all the time. I firmly believe that if you buy right the first time and bleed once to get good reliable gear, you will be better off. Find a format that suits your method of working and stick with it. Then learn to use your equipment in a consistent way to get results. Experience eventually tells you what works and what does not. I have since streamlined the films, processing, and papers I use as well. All with the intent to make like simple and keep consistent. Too many variables is a big hindrance and a drain on creativity to me anymore. .02
     
  21. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    I shoot 645. I chose this over 35mm because I didn't feel I was getting enough from my smaller negatives. The images weren't any worse, as a matter of fact, when I first got the M amiya, my images were a bit on the lackluster side. Because until I got serious with it, it was a novelty camera to my, a frivolous purchase. But now that I use it exclusively, not much more if any 35, I feel much happier with my negatives, which I am now processing myself. As to 645 among MF formats, this was the one I could afford. I had an older Wirgin 6x6 folder that I made some great images with, but it is now a 6x6 pinhole that I am toying around with.

    No, I love my M645j's (I said j's). And right now, I wouldn't trade them for the world. Unless Stephanie wants to buy one dirt cheap. Then we'll see.
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I love contact printing. There's nothing else like it, so first 4x5, a skip up to 8x10 and, of course, an 11x14 as soon as I find one at the same time I'm not broke. I already got some lenses. The cameras aren't so big to me because I've spent my life hauling around and hefting big metal motion picture cameras.
     
  23. mark

    mark Member

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    When I settle on one I'll tell you.
     
  24. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I went LF because that's what the photographers who's work I admired the most used. 4x5 made the most sense as the forests and mountains here are rugged, with few trails.

    Murray
     
  25. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    I've pretty much settled on 120 roll film cameras. The older I get, the less appeal hauling my 4x5 seems to have. I guess my romantic idea of using a view camera in the wild has faded with time. (And time is something I don't have a lot of these days, family life and all.) I find 120 much more spontaneous than sheet film, and my success rate is higher.

    If I get a chance to ramble with a camera, I take my Hasselblad. I figure it will do the job about 90% of the time. If I want a bigger negative, I'll pull out my Fuji GW690III. Sell my view camera? Maybe, but not today. Those big negs are so nice to print . . .

    Peter Gomena
     
  26. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    For me, bigger is better but my practical limit on bigger is 4x5. I went from 35 to 6x7 to 4x5 and I now use both 35mm and 4x5.