I want a larger negative. Does anyone care to comment?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by MattPC, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. MattPC

    MattPC Member

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    This started out as me simply listing my perceived pro’s and con’s to limit my options as objectively as possible. But it grew...
    In the event anyone can be bothered reading through it, I am interested in constructive criticism of my thinking. Having no experience with Medium Format, are my assumptions correct?

    Some background: I’m a weekend untalented amateur; 3 years ago I sulked at the failure of my most recent whiz-bang wonder and shot some film on my 35mm ‘70’s RF and 80’s SLR. I discovered that firstly, my best results were at least as good with film and secondly I really knew much less about photography than I thought I did. So I embarked upon a learning path that has now expanded to include a modest B&W darkroom (at a total cost to date of less than ½ a whiz-bang replacement! Aside from consumables of course). If I’ve obtained no other benefit, at least I’m away from my monitor when pursuing this branch of photography.

    My primary constraint is of course, talent/knowledge/experience which is constantly evolving (maybe even improving...). One of the potential avenues of improvement is equipment change.

    Quite a bit of research leads me to believe that the improvement I’m likely to obtain though equipment ‘upgrade’ will be modest, but the cost may also be modest. (say, the other ½ of the whiz-bang replacement cost, around $AU750)

    This has led me via loads of internet research (including apug archives) towards an interest in a larger negative. I’d like some opinions on my assumptions (below) of benefits I’m likely to obtain.

    I’m constrained to max negative 6x6 and max enlargement 12x16 by my equipment. I could possibly increase enlargement to 16x20 for modest outlay, but I will need to see some improvements in my results before taking that step. All my photography is natural light (aside from family snapshots of course).

    I’m considering 6x4.5/6x6 MF with a preference for 6x6 on the basis that I can crop down.

    My expected (hoped for?) pro’s in no particular order are:
    • Increased tonal range. (is this real, or does it really come from skill/ability/exposure selection?)
    • Ability to crop more heavily for given enlargement size. (To partially compensate for poor composition and/or limited lens choices, may end up as a con?)
    • Sharper prints at 8x10 and 12x16. (likely, given my small enlargement capability, and based on my experience of significant improvement in this area with better exposure/development/film selection as I learn more, this will be not as much improvement as I imagine. opinions please?)
    • Shorter rolls giving me (say) 1 roll per ‘project’ and darkroom session.
    • Possible ability to change film mid session (dependant on equipment selection, and might be a con in regard of my learning curve anyway)
    • Much bigger contact prints/negatives and consequent easing of assessment. (this might be the biggest benefit?)
    • Lesser impact of unnoticed dust while enlarging.
    • Easier negative handling in the darkroom.
    • Potential for use of higher speed films for a given enlargement size. (likely not relevant given my small enlargement capability)
    • Manual functions (for equipment in my price range) encouraging slower/more thought about exposure and composition.
    • Waist Level finder (dependant on equipment selection)

    My perceived cons:
    • Cost
    • Risk of premature failure of 2nd hand equipment. (there are options for mitigating this of course)
    • Substantially reduced depth of field options.
    • Reduced max shutter speeds (though I suspect I’ll hardly notice)
    • Possibly more difficult camera handling in some situations (depending on equipment choice and mitigated by retaining my 35mm kit)
    • Increased reliance on tripod (this could actually be a pro?)
    • Requirement for further investment on stuff I’ve overlooked (eg, lightmeter once I get sick of using my SLR’s metering, filters ins different sizes, ever more lenses/backs/finders etc, etc)
    • Reduced ability to carry the thing in my motorcycle tankbag (dependant on equipment selection).
    • Reduced ability to ‘take a beating’/more repairs from carrying it on my motorcycle on rough roads.
    • And, well, cost again.

    If my assumptions are correct (or at least fairly close) and bearing in mind my budget, I’m attracted to 2 contrasting options:
    1. I think the best compromise will be a Mamiya 645 super/pro, with std lens and WLF plus a meter (Sekonic L-508?) and an adaptor for my cokin P filters if I can fit all that into my budget. Risk is around me damaging it while carrying it and likelihood of needing a major service.
    2. But, tougher and more attractive (to me) is: An Agfa Super Isolette (from Mr Kreckel at certo6, assuming he is able to find one for me?), a hood and filters to suit and the same meter. Again assuming I’m able to fit all this into my budget. I think this option mitigates the risks of service and me damaging it better, but is much more limited as a photography tool as my skill & interests evolve.

    For those with the patience for yet another camera thread and thoughts to share, thank you.

    Matt.
     
  2. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Matt, I'm running short on time, so I'll be brief. I think your pros and cons are pretty much right on. I also think you are the only one who can answer if they are balanced in favor of you getting a medium format camera, and what that camera might be.

    I can say for my self that I have owned a Mamiya Pro TL (just sold it, still have some lenses). It just wasn't quite right for me. I like the Hasselblad better, so I bought one. I have also owned an RZ67, and it wasn't right for me either. Weighed more than my 4x5 setup, and I like to backpack with the camera. I also owned a Super Isolette years ago and loved the thing. Still don't know why I sold it. Probably to fund the RZ - dumb move. So when I found one for cheap in excellent condition on eBay I bought it again. It is a great travel camera, and probably a good intro to medium format.

    I don't know what you shoot, how you like to shoot. So it could be that 35mm would be better, or maybe you should get a 4x5. However I do know that if i was trying to transport a camera on a motorcycle I would want something small and tough. The Super Isolette could be that. I'm not sure the Pro TL would be good.

    Also, in my experience a waist level finder works much better on a 6x6 camera instead of a 6x4.5 because of the difficulty in rotating the camera.
     
  3. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Some people think that 6x4.5 doesn't offer a big enough advantage over 35mm. It is larger, but if you want a really large negative, then you should consider 6x9. However, the only available waist-level finders with most of these are the older folding cameras with a brilliant finder, which aren't that accurate.

    But photography has always been about compromise, so you end up prioritizing as you go along.
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    You want a bigger neg? Shoot color slide in a smaller format and enlarge it to b&w tmax in a larger format :smile:

    The pro is a great body system, very modular and lots of fun. Quite durable. Consider also the rb67. Similar cost and it won't be hard for you to print 6x7 negs. And it is basically indestructible.

    Not familiar with the isolette.

    There is only one sure-fire way to find out what's best for you: loan some cameras from buddies on APUG and give them a go. Or do what I did and try stuff out from KEH; they have a great return policy.

    Should it entertain you at all, I have a few stray blog thoughts about format size and tonality etc. : http://www.apug.org/forums/blogs/keithwms/56-grain-tonality-format-size-all.html
     
  5. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    You are spot on with advantages/disadvantages for sure. You could probably pick up a TLR, Yaschica or something, for about 150AU that'll give you a WLF, 6x6 negative, and a cheap way to figure out whether or not MF is something for you.

    One thing I must say: some cameras work for people and others dont. I just got back from a trip where I used 4 different cameras and some felt right while others did not, so my images subsequently showed that. My most expensive piece may have had critically better negatives, but for image quality, I think the little Nkion FE gave the best results. Go figure. That part is so immeasurable, I think I would try and play around with systems until you find what works for you, and thus your images will improve more greatly than any fancy equipment upgrade.
     
  6. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    You *will* notice the tonality differences printing at 12x16 or less. Oh boy, will you.

    Don't get too hung up on the exact camera. A Yashica-Mat will show you all you need to know, many other cameras. A Kodak Brownie will show you things in tonality and grain. Once you work with any medium format negatives a bit you'll be able to tell if the results are worth it for you. And many of the cameras are quite easy to sell for about what you paid.
     
  7. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    Then you will want to move up to 4x5 then 8x10. haha

    Like others said, your pros and cons are pretty good. Just depends if the pros out weigh the cons.

    I shoot large format portraits most of the time now because I prefer the tonal separation and just the overall image. Also its much nicer working with in the darkroom.
     
  8. Sundowner

    Sundowner Subscriber

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    Short answer: I carry a Pentax 645N most days. I enjoy it, and there's a quality difference over 35mm. 6x9 would be better, but I like the ease and functionality of this setup...for now. I use 35mm when I'm printing small or need to have an ultra-small rig with me. It's a great camera for me. If you're thinking of going to medium format, then do it.
     
  9. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I also have a 645N and there is a noticeable difference from 35mm. Camera-wise, the 645N is like a 35mm on steroids. I do use a tripod in more situations, but I see it as a plus because I should have used one more when shooting mainly 35mm. I have an Isolette, a Zeiss folder (6x9), and a Hasselblad. The P645N is still usually my go-to of those because it's been very dependable for me. You should try and handle some different ones and even a roll in each before completely deciding. Or just keep adding to the pile and then sort it out and get rid of the ones that don't work for you.
    MF is a gateway format. I now have a couple of MF and three 4x5s. I keep thinking fondly of doing contacts of 5x7 or 8x10.
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I always like to help out someone named Matt :smile:.

    I think that your concern about the condition or durability of most medium format equipment may be a bit unnecessary.

    I've been using a Mamiya C330 and a few lenses for more than 30 years, and I think I have had to replace one errant screw. In addition, I had them CLA'd at about 25 years in, because it seemed a good idea.

    My Mamiya 645 Supers and Pro have not needed any service since I bought them - although the Supers are now sold.

    As you have a darkroom, I would suggest trying a lower cost option (a TLR or a 645 Super with a single lens). You should be able to tell fairly quickly whether you like using them. If not, you will likely be able to get most of your money back upon resale.

    All your listed pros and cons are useful and relevant, but actually shooting a few rolls may very well tell you more.
     
  11. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    Keep in mind that pre-war camera lenses are uncoated and have a much softer look and lower contrast than what you might be thinking of. I like the look and have two 6x9 folders (Bessa & Kodak,) but then again I like older stuff. (The 1937 Bessa is actually the newest film gear I own.) I shot a Bronica 645 for a number of years and liked it, but it's not heavy duty. You might consider the RZ (not RB) 67, or the Pentax 67. Both are solid enough you could use them as a stand to hold up your motorcylce for quick repairs. You will need a decent tripod of course, and a light meter. Don't need to spend more than $100 on a meter. If you are serious about contact prints, eventually you will buy a 4x5. That's mostly what I shoot anyway.


    Kent in SD
     
  12. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I picked up a Bronica ETR with a 75 mm lens a while back for $200. I was pleasantly surprised by this camera's performance. It has an eye level finder and can be turned for vertical pictures. Easily hand held, nut I do put it on a tripod when the situation allows. No meter. It produces a 6 x 4.5 cm image. Draw back, electronic shutter fails in extreme cold, so I drag out a 4 x 5.
     
  13. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    A 6X6 would max out the usefulness of your enlarger in regard to neg size. New lens for the larger format, 75-90mm ish.

    An advantage to the TLR is that they're light(except the Mamiyas) so in my opinion The Yashica, Rolleicord, Minolta Autocord should all work out for you. Stay away from Seagull,delicate/some lenses are dramatically worse than others. Ricoh and some others are out there and should be inexpensive to try out.
    They're all manual, some cock when you advance the film, some have a separate lever. They are also all approximately the same size, and you won't need a very heavy tripod to hold 'em. Something like a Bogen 3001, 3011 or 3021 would be adequate with the 3001 the least of the three. I'd consider the 3011 as a good match. The tripods all have new model numbers now but you should be able to find specifications for them online but as I remember(?) the two I like were around 21-24" long collapsed. Not unmanageable on a bike
    Motor cycle. I've used a tank bag, seat bag and saddlebags, they all work but I preferred the tank bag. I've never had screws vibrate loose but when packing the camera, it was never packed tightly. a wadded up t-shirt or bubble wrap absorbs a lot of vibration. Some foam works OK if it's not too rigid.
     
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  15. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    Using a TLR and going by motobike yor tank gives a good tripod. Use a bean back and the self timer.
    I often use my bicycle saddel as a tripod vehicle. I have to hold my Flex in place, but by pressing it slightly against the gel I can hold times around 1/4sec stable.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I started to photograph with a Rolleiflex, so I have some bias in that direction. I still use one for the times I do not wish to haul around the 8x10.

    The Agfa folders are known for their holey bellows, but folders in general are a nice compact way to go. The fellow you are dealing with knows all about that and he seems to be a respected dealer/repair fellow.

    The 6x4.5 format has a lot of pluses, but I have steered towards starting with the film width and stretching out in the other direction! The square format is also fun to work with -- it can grow on you! I use to make 15"x15" B&W prints from negs from the Rollei. I was using the now-extinct Kodak Panotomic-X developed in Microdol 1:3, but today's films and developers are equal to the task.

    You might consider moving up to a 4x5 enlarger eventually -- there are plenty of ones going unused out there! I have been using an Omega D5-XL (condenser head) with a 135mm lens for MF. I like using the center portion of a 4x5 system's optical system (condensers and lens), rather than use a system that a 6x7 negative would stretch it to is limits. It just seems that the light would be more even and one is using the sharper center portion of the lens. All would be negated by a poorly aligned enlarger though!

    And you might as well get the 4x5 enlarger now. As Winger said, MF is just a gateway drug to the dark undercloth world of large format!

    Vaughn

    PS -- you might find that any camera on a bike will eventually need a CLA, if just to tighten some interior screws.
     
  17. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    Thats exactly what I did. I knew I was going to get a LF so before I got one I got the d2 with color head.
     
  18. NB23

    NB23 Member

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    I'm glad that you admit that you realized that you didn't know much about photography once you shot film.

    According to me:

    Pros: Quality! Quality! Quality!

    Cons: Time! Time! Time!
     
  19. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Yes to most of the above - Especially start cheap, like a Meopta Flexarette or Yashica which should be cheap enough for you to not worry about the cost - If you are in Australia I have a Flexarette with a goodish lens you can borrow for the cost of postage, although the slow speeds are sticky - PM me if you are interested

    However, if you go for a Rollei and buy a good one you should be able to recoup you money if you decide MF is not to your liking - Hasselblad in Australia is tricky as they are much easier to buy than to sell

    John
     
  20. landscapepics

    landscapepics Member

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    I own a Yashicamat, a Mamiya RZ67, and a Kodak 66 folder. For the circumstances you describe, I'd choose the Yashicamat. It's pretty light and compact and I have taken it on a bicycle saddle-bag over rough ground. A tripod is useful, although I suspect you have more light for exposure in Australia than I have in Britain ...

    The Kodak 66 folder is a bit like an Isolette. It is light and compact, but the range of shutter speeds, and the lens quality, is not as good as the Yashica, and it requires scale-focussing. The meter on the Yashica works and is pretty accurate.
     
  21. LarryP

    LarryP Member

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    Looks like you have the pro's and cons well thought out. I shoot MF and 35 mm , Pentax 645 and a couple 35 mm rangefinders. As far as roll swapping mid-rol, how often would you do it with your current cameras if it were possible? Since I wouldn't the ability to do so is no real benefit. YMMV. Negative size can make a difference, but then again if your 35mm equipment is low to mid range upgrading to better gear may make nearly as much difference and possibly be much more convenient. Better is a relative term , my yashica gsn is technically a better camera than my fed 5v but I take better photos with the fed. But honestly I'm more likely to use the 645 because it does what I want better than the others.
     
  22. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    +1, with the exception of I don't have a 645 camera.
     
  23. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Assuming you are making the most of 35mm, medium format will give you slightly more sharpness, and a little more detail, depending on the print size of course. Tonality - in my opinion the differences are trivial. The real step up in that area is to sheet film. And of course, technique, since tonality has a lot to do with printing skill. John Sexton's prints from his Hasselblad negatives look great. You might mistake them for large format. On the other hand most of the prints I've ever seen by other people using medium format look like they might as well have been made from 35mm negatives.

    So I guess you can put me in the camp that doesn't see a whole lot of benefit to medium format over 35mm. I never much cared for the square negative, so I ended up doing a lot of cropping anyway. And the other types of medium format systems out there are often quite limiting in lens selection. Further, I didn't find medium format all that much less clunky than my large format gear. So I went back to 35mm when I need the convenience and use sheet film otherwise.
     
  24. filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    I do notice a real difference in tonality between 35mm and 645. I somtimes show my portfolio on my iPhone, and even at those ridiculously small sizes, friends comment on the tonality in shots taken with my Bronica ETR (as opposed to the 35mm and digital work in my portfolio.)

    Between your two choices, I suggest the Mamiya as a primary camera. Having owned and used a number of folders (AGFA Isolette, Zeiss Super Ikonta, Moskva5) I can't recommend any of them as your only camera. They are fun and can be quite handy (they fold after all!) I do get the occassional really nice shot from the folders, but I can't count on them to deliver the goods consistently. Things that conspire against getting a high rate of keepers include:
    * a folding mechanism that means the lens and film plane aren't aligned to the same tolerances as a rigid camera
    * often older, uncoated lenses
    * focus issues exacerbated by a lack of rangefinder, or a rangefinder that is small or seperated from the main viewfinder
    * often a small viewfinder window that makes composing more difficult
    * shutter release ergonomics that invite camera shake
    * big springs on faster shutters can induce shake in the lens/shutter unit (Moskva 5 :smile:

    My Super Ikonta fares the best of the folders I have, but I still only get about a 75% keeper rate (from a technical point of view.) My Bronica ETR however, will deliver 100% of the frames in focus with none of the issues that crop up on the folders. So important stuff gets shot on the Bronica, and I keep the folders for more casual fooling around. If a system camera like the Mamiya seems like too much bother, then I would suggest a TLR instead of a folder. A nice clean Yashica has none of the drawbacks of the folder and can be a real pleasure to shoot with. The results from my own Yashica LM have bested my Bronica and my Rollei 2.8F.

    With regards to the difference between 6x6 and 645, it is a bit of a moot point. Especially if you print to the common rectangular sizes, you will be cropping your 6x6 negs to 645 anyway. The biggest difference between 6x6 and 645 is that the 6x6 camera doesn't need to be turned on it's side to change the orientation.
     
  25. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Certo6 appears to do a good job fixing up folders. I think a TLR is more practical though, and I have two TLRs (yashica and rollei, not that it really matters, and neither of which is worth more than $250) I have used but not owned medium format SLRs, so listen to others regarding that; pentax 67 series is a respectable option too.

    Good tones come first through good film developing and film. Consistency in mixing, temperature, and agitation so as not to over/under cook things. I really like 12 shots per medium format rolls. I'd scoff at 12 shots per 35mm roll though. I mostly use tmax400 in pmk or pyrocat hd for film/developer. If you change films all the time you won't figure out good tones.

    In the darkroom, if you don't have a el-nikkor/rodenstock/scheider componon-s enlarger lens, you might spend the $50-100 to upgrade. Final results of the tones depend on the output paper as well. A good paper won't make a bad image sing, but it can make the great images even better. Tastes differ, but I'm liking alternatives to normal B&W vc rc such as ilford mg rc warmtone, ilford art300, fomatone mg classic.
     
  26. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    If you're on a budget, find a good, used Rolleiflex, Rolleicord or Yashica and spend a little to have it serviced if needed. You'll have invested a few hundred bucks in a portable camera that will tell you if you want to pursue MF for the long haul. You will find the negatives give you the resolution, detail and tonality that is much better than 35mm. Give the format a good trial and take it from there. You may find you want a system that is more flexible and expandable, or you may find you want to stay with 35mm. Either way, you've not invested a whole lot of money. Save the cash for film, paper, chemicals, enlarging equipment.

    Peter Gomena