If Medium Format and Large Format are Better, Why Do We Bother with 35mm?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, Nov 16, 2009.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    As one who has shot 35mm for about ten years, and has had an acquintance with 35mm equipment for much longer, I wonder why I have not made "the switch" or "upgrade"? MF and LF users and ethusiasts constantly blast the "small" 35mm negative for its extremely inferior resolution. If this is true, why do we waste our time with our "classic" 35mm cameras?

    In my case (as is the case with others here), I own multipe 35mm cameras, and thus I waste even more time, money, and effort than those who own just one 35mm camera. Why not sell it all and take real photographs--photos with stunning edge-to-edge sharpness and resolution? MF and LF gear costs not much more than 35mm gear (and far less than better digital equipment), and so why are we concerned with obtaining, maintaining, and using equipment that simply cannot compare? Further, how did all of those classic pro cameras (those Fs, F2s, F3s, F-1s, F-1Ns, LXs) sell so well? Is it all about "portability," "convenience," and action photography?

    I do not have an answer to these questions, and so I thought I would pose them to fellow 35mm enthusiasts.
     
  2. Joachim_I

    Joachim_I Member

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    It is. I sold all my 35mm gear (Nikon F2A, F2AS, FE2) when I bought my Pentax 67II in 1998. I thought I could do without 35mm. In 2005 I bought a 35mm rangefinder to complement the medium format camera. Sometimes you want to travel light. As always, having both is better.
     
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  3. William Markey

    William Markey Member

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    Most of my film stuff is done with a Hasselblad 500CM or Mamiyas (RZProII, RB67, 645Super), but I've recently returned to 35mm for the convenience and fun of it. Just bought a Minolta X700 system *cheap* and have a mint Canon 1N coming soon in the mail. These cameras will be used for my less-serious art photos and family photos...and I'm feeling nostalgic about 35mm slide projection--so I'm looking forward to that too.

    My "serious" work will most likely always remain in the MF realm, but I really look forward to returning to shooting 35mm again.
     
  4. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    You'll get plenty of responses, but I'll throw a few ideas out there:

    1) Portability - 35mm cameras are typically smaller and lighter, great for travel; try lugging around your 4X5 field camera on your honeymoon;

    2) The cost differential has only recently narrowed so much as to make the additional expenditure tolerable for most amateurs; I've always said the advent of digital opened the door to amateurs seeking great medium/large_format equipment;

    3) Amateur photographers were never really marketed medium or large format; the masses buy what you sell them.

    4) How many amateur photographers do you know that routinely enlarge past 8x10? Well, you can certainly produce great 8x10 prints with 35mm without moving up in formats.

    5) Because you probably started with 35mm and have produced quality photographs. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

    All this being said, I love my MF and LF. But most importantly shoot well with whatever you've got, be it a pinhole or an Arca! It's not the format, it's the light.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Serious stuff I usually use the Hasselblad 503 or 903. For speed, sightseeing and lighter weight I have two Nikons - one for color and one for black & white.

    Steve
     
  6. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    There is a problem — and a very long-standing one — with the thinking of MF and LF users who look down at 35mm for its "inferior resolution". Tell me, how many MF and LF users actually adopt an holistic approach to creating quality work from conception to hanging on the wall, spending $xxxxx on printing (e.g. Ilfochromes to 30x50cm and 40x50cm — that's much bigger than 8x10!)) and MGCS framing? As a working artist, I often get a giggle from the 'bigger guys' carting Hassies and Bronnies around but not actually producing any quality finished art from them, just mass-produced, digitally printed wedding stuff (profitable, sure, but inferior quality is just too obvious!). I print to a sensible size straight from 35mm (as I have done for more than 20 years) and many visitors viewing my gallery prints think the work comes from medium or large format, until I show them the transparency in its mask: "Oh, I would never dream that was possible with those cameras!" [35mm/EOS1N], is one but many comments.

    Many professionals today seem hell bent on demeaning 35mm rather than explore and exploit its full potential and versatility in creating high quality products (art, in my specific case), but no, these guys are only interested in the (undeniably) higher resolution and seemingly the entrenched 'code' (working pros must have a medium or large format and no 35mm, right?), for an end print that is no bigger in many respects to an A4 page produced form scan on a lightjet printer. I don't demean my trannies by scanning them and churning them out on mass-produced inkjet printers.

    So, before they knock the smaller format users, perhaps they should take a careful look at the sort of work being produced by those users as opposed to themselves. The late Galen Rowell showed how it was done. And the legion of devote small-format users is growign: I'm certainly not alone in my strident preference for 35mm by any stretch of the imagination!
     
  7. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    2 things that are not available in MF and LF are fast motor drive and the range of lens focal length available.
     
  8. Anthony Sanson

    Anthony Sanson Member

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    Well, many people in this world use 35mm including myself. I also use medium and large format. We all know the differences and the uniqueness of each. You touch on a big topic in your comment/question...."photos with stunning edge-to-edge sharpness and resolution?"

    In general the big stink when it comes to "Mine is bigger than yours" ...this attitude mainly comes from not having much else to talk about other than the tools and quantitative aspects. Ya, I don't much enjoy that aspect either. See, the majority of people using a BIG camera, use it differently than the 35mm. And thus, they have a lot more time to prepare for the shoot and wonder if edge sharpness will make their vision 20/20.

    Another reason and sometimes my reason for shooting a bigger format is, I am more deliberate in my photos....meaning, I know the subject matter and will focus my attention on the benefits of the format while still getting the ideal pictures.

    If you ever decide to move to a different format, change because it may help to fulfill you ultimate vision. For that reason, I don't think you could go wrong.

    Good luck,

    Anthony
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I confess I do have a new toy for B&W small-production work: my handmade wooden Zero Image 6x9 multiformat (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9) Pinhole has neither common camera luxury — nor a lens (!), and suffers nothing for lack of it.
     
  10. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Leica M6 + 15, 21, 35 & 90mm lenses: 1.274 Kg.

    Pentax 6x7 + 45, 75 & 165mm lenses: 3.9 Kg.
    (without an ultrawide comparable to a 15mm lens with 35mm)
     
  11. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Brutus (my EOS1N+PDBE1) + TS-E lens = 2.58kg
    Zero Image pinhole = 360gm (!)

    What does as Hasselblad 503cx weigh with 80mm (?) T* Planar? Trying to think of a photographer I met some time back who complained bitterly of carting that camera around in his rucksack (with camping gear too) with a flexbody attached... Probably around the same as 'Brutus' (which does not come on overnight walks)?
     
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One thing I've learned from shooting a variety of formats is to use each format for what each it does best, and it's hard to know what 35mm does really well before you've had a chance to shoot medium or large format. I've tried some bird photography with medium and even large format, for instance, and often it just isn't worth doing, because there are so few situations where you can get an interesting shot without a long fast lens, a focal plane shutter, and a small format. On the other hand, I've discovered that wide lenses are more interesting on larger formats, because 35mm often doesn't have enough resolution to render all the information that a wide lens can take in, unless the composition is fairly simple.

    Then there are other issues about what you can do best with an SLR, rangefinder, TLR, or a view camera, that are separate from questions of format size.
     
  13. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    It doesn't? Definitely not the case with my images, David. And the best art is that which has simple composition devoid of clutter and makes the best use of the chosen format i.e. "fit the subject to the frame", not the frame to the subject. Much of the LF work I see contains so much unallocated space and edge clutter; it's not used optimally. NO denying though if you want to go from big to bigger to biggest (mural size), LF is the way to go, but I'd still much prefer better, more optimal use of the huge additional space rather than have distracting blank swathes, messy edges and overall poor composition.

    I agree many other issues separate from this that suit SLRs and view cameras, but the same comments apply to framing optimally with no waste.
     
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  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I can go wider with my 35mm lenses [20mm] than I can with my Hasselblad 903 however not 35mm camera lens can compare with the 903 in rectilinear renditions of the scene. Edited: Added Example Below take with the Hasselblad 903 SWC, scanned negative, no adjustments made.

    Steve
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 16, 2009
  16. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    35mm is about convenience and speed. If toting medium or large format gear and working at a slower pace are not problems, then the larger negative will always produce superior results. Of course the content of a photo can be of little value in any format; but presumably this thread is about technical quality, not artistic quality.
     
  17. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Chazzy,
    Technical quality as well as conceptual/artistic quality go hand-in-hand in professional practice. It's something drummed into you in art school (well, at least here!).
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Depends what you're intentions are of course, but textures are different with different formats, and the relation of the part to the whole depends on how clearly one can render the part. Joel Meyerowitz, for instance, said that he shot his Ground Zero project in 8x10", because the larger format is simply a better tool for description of detail on an absolute level, and I would say that is true even with small prints, where you're trying to depict an immense subject and show what is happening at the same time on a human scale. Burtynsky works this way as well, where you might first see a vast industrial landscape, and then realize that there are people in the landscape, and you can see in some detail what they are doing. I had this revelation myself some years ago making photographs in a market square with an ultrawide 120mm lens on 8x10", and looking over the contact print with a loupe, I could find all these little mini-narratives going on that described the life of the market square, and I couldn't have done that with a small format.
     
  19. mesh

    mesh Subscriber

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    The main reasons have been mentioned of course, but there can be another IMO. The difference in DOF (and DOFocus) can sometimes be an advantage in 35mm. Generally speaking, you can also "get a shot" easier in low light in 35mm - slower shutter speeds, more DOF at a given aperture. I know there a plently of MF RFers that can be handheld at slower speeds, but not as much as in the smaller format.
     
  20. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I have no reason to record the world I see at 1/60 @ f/32. That is the World of The Obvious.
    At 1/60 @ f/2, you are walking in the Realm of the Sacred, and every moment is a chance to peer into Eternity.
    I shoot 8x10 to fart around. My Leica is for REAL pictures.


    Technical quality as well as conceptual/artistic quality go hand-in-hand in professional practice. It's something drummed into you in art school (well, at least here!).

    Garyh: I suggest you get a refund as soon as possible.
     
  21. Donima

    Donima Member

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    You have to pick youre camera type to the images you need to make. A lot of the time i would prefer to use a mf camera but couldn"t because its just to difficult to get the the images with anything but a 35mm camera. Dont forget that 35mm is capable of amazing quality if used correctly. Also keeping your'e photographs a bit smaller helps a lot. Don
     
  22. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    I haven't used a 135 camera for any of my personal stuff since I was sixteen years old. However, if I wanted extreme portability, or to shoot action/sports, or high mag macro, or very long lenses... I'd get a 135 camera and the optics/accessories to support those needs. There are many things a 135 just does better or at least far more conveniently than MF or especially LF.
     
  23. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    To me 35mm is the bread and butter of film photography.
    Acceptable for a lot of things, and not much to dislike

    MF, well to paraphrase a UK commercial of a famous Chain store over here

    There is film photography, and then there is MF film photography

    (Nigella Lawson optional) :D
     
  24. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    35mm, MF and LF all have their uses and each does some things better than the others. Various benefits of the 35mm format have been put forward above. Also, depending on the subject, sometimes I want a print with a gritty, quick-and-dirty look. This is generally easier to achieve with a 35mm camera.
     
  25. Denis R

    Denis R Member

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    small package

    for some of my on-location shooting, it's a matter of what fits in the backpack
    1 body with 18-55 lens attached
    55-200 lens
    3 filters cir-pl nd4 uv
    remote
    spare batterty

    anything larger is too much

    the backpack is almost too big for some of the smaller units I climb
    [​IMG]
    an example of type of work I do
    [​IMG]
     
  26. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I use 35 because some film are only available in 35, the cameras are great to work with, it is still fairly exceptable since processing and films can be found in many many places still, it's somewhat inexpensive, it is small and portable, the cameras are not as expensive as good used MF gear, they are good for action and there are many many diffrent cameras and leses available. Medium Format is better but not always. I look at them both equally. I love and use them both.