Is medium format feasible for photographing children?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by michelleg, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. michelleg

    michelleg Member

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    I'm new here, so I hope I'm posting this in the right place!

    I have a business photographing small children and recently decided that I wanted to try film. I have borrowed a bronica sq and I'm surprised at how much I like it, how I need to consider each shot, and the end result. And of course I like the lack of photoshop!

    I would like to buy a medium format camera but I'm not sure which one will work well for me running around after small kids. I'm considering the contax 645 and the rollei 6008af, but I feel like I'll be buying something that I have no idea if it will work for me. I can't seem to find any photographers that shoot medium format for children apart from Cheryl Jacobs. Is it feasible to shoot medium format for my needs? And just to confuse things, would a nikon F6 be a better choice?

    Sorry if my questions are silly, but I would be grateful for any advice.

    Thanks, Michelle
     
  2. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG! :smile:

    I think SuzanneR (one of the mods here) photographs children with a Mamiya RZ (even bigger than the Contax/Rolleis you mention) so yes, it's possible. I know several people who are professionals that uses medium format cameras to photograph people (both big and small ones) so why not?
     
  3. R gould

    R gould Member

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    michelle, don't see any problems using MF for photographing Children, I personally would use a 645 system, perhaps a contax 645, Mamiya 645 af, or maybe a bronica etrs, whicdh is fairly light for a MF, and with a speed grip almost as easy to use as 35mm,with a lever wind on the grip, get the camera with a couple of spare backs loaded for a quick changeof film and perhaps a 100 or 150 lens and you should be away,Good luck,Richard
     
  4. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    MY daughter paid her way through college photographing babies and children with a Rolleiflex and a Mamiya 645. Most medium SLR's are great for this work once the camera becomes a part of you requiring little attention. This takes practice, practice, practice
     
  5. michelleg

    michelleg Member

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    Thanks for the warm welcome both of you! I hope this is the beginning of a life long love for film. I would love to try my hand in the darkroom too, but I'm getting ahead of myself!

    I guess the only way I'm going to know is just to try! I feel medium format is the way to go.
     
  6. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I would think that a MF would good for photographing children. Most 645s would be good with at least two backs maybe more. BTW welcome to APUG!

    Jeff
     
  7. michelleg

    michelleg Member

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    Jim - did your daughter have a preference of camera that was better to work with? Is auto focus really necessary with kids or with practice would manual focus give consistent results?
     
  8. michelleg

    michelleg Member

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    Thanks Jeff!
     
  9. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    With teeny ones, I'd say Auto focus is NICE, but not necessary. The older they get, the easier they are to photograph, period.
     
  10. michelleg

    michelleg Member

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    Hehe, I must be crazy to prefer preschoolers!
     
  11. mbsmith

    mbsmith Member

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    I have used a bronica SQ-A for shooting kids quite a bit and would say that it probably depends on how you're shooting them. If you're going for candids or active shots, then it can be a nightmare. If what you're doing is more formal and the children are heavily coached, then the manual focus is less of a problem.

    Running around after toddlers with your head bent to a waist level finder is a fine lesson in humility/frustration... not that I've ever done that :wink:
     
  12. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Welcome to APUG, Michelle.
    For smaller, active kids, you will always wish you had autofocus. The Contax 645 is a great camera, with awesome lenses, and a decent autofocus. Not F6 and new lenses quick but it will do the job in most situations. I have three backs, always loaded with different film, and it's just a pleasure. For a decent price, you can also get yourself an old manual focus Rollei and keep it for "not so small and active" children shoots, studio-type work....then there is the F6. Not much to be said there. A great camera all around, infallible matrix metering, built like a tank, fast autofocus, and plenty of lens choices from old to new Nikons, new Zeiss, Voigtlander, etc.
    Heck, even a Fuji 645i is a great medium format camera. Fixed (but great) lens and ok autofocus but it could serve its purpose as a backup camera as well.

    Good luck!

    Max
     
  13. jglass

    jglass Subscriber

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    I want to confirm that SuzanneR would be a great resource on this question. I just heard her interview on Inside Analog Photo Radio. You might check it out. I believe she uses a big old lumber RZ67 and maybe a Mamiya 7, but not sure. And her website: http://suzannerevy.com/index.cfm

    I've got to say, a lot of my photography is of children (7 & 11 now) and I was inspired by Suzanne's interview to shoot the kids more with my MF SLR (Bronica). But 35 is certainly a bit easier, esp. with auto focus.
     
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  15. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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  16. AgentX

    AgentX Member

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    Rolleiflex or other TLR (Mamiya if you like interchangeable lenses) is great for kids. In any case, I recommend a camera with a waist-level finder. You have to get used to a reversed image, but the camera positioning is great. All you need to do is think of where the real subject is rather than thinking about what's on the groundglass when kids are moving around. It's really not a problem (for me, anyhow) with a bit of practice.

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    Edit: Oops, looks like the versions of some of these I had on Flickr were less-than-optimally-tuned. Sorry if they're a bit muddy in some cases, but I hope you get my idea...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2010
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'd recommend a camera that allows you to switch back and forth between a prism finder and a waist level finder. Square format makes that a bit easier, because using a waist level finder to shoot something in portrait orientation is an exercise in altered realities :smile:.

    I shot a lot of weddings (which included a fair amount of candid photos of kids) using a Mamiya C330 with prism and waist level finders.
     
  18. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    That's why you use an RB/RZ!
     
  19. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    [​IMG]

    My son at age 4 shooting a photo of me with his Canon Sure Shot Owl. He now has a Nikon D70 (he uses digital because he's doing a lot of work making stop-motion animations with Lego bricks). I shot this with a Hasselblad and 80mm Planar C. More pics below

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  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    No problem at all, but I recommend using a camera with bellows focusing for children likely to move around, so you can focus quickly. With my Bronica S2a, I found that my best setup for photographing my son when he was around two years old was with the bellows instead of a helical and a chimney finder--in other words, I'd turned it into a kind of 6x6 Graflex SLR, so I switched to using my 5x7" Press Graflex SLR and never turned back, at least with available light. It doesn't do flash sync easily, so with strobes, I prefer the Bronica.
     
  21. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    I use Mamiya

    My kids are 5 and 2 and they are most of what I shoot these days. I use the Mamiya 7 and also the RZ67. Both work well, but chasing them down and nailing focus while they are moving can be a challenge. The RZ is better since it's an slr and focuses closer but the Mamiya 7 is lighter and better for hikes and wide-angle type portraits.

    I have a full EOS system but haven't used it much in the last year or two, just loving the results from MF too much.

    With the RZ I use it with the L-grip, the winder, and the AE prism. It makes shooting faster, though the rig is a lot heavier that way. The 110/2.8 is a superb portrait lens, and in fact just a great lens in general.
     
  22. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Among my favourites is our own Nicole Boenig McGrade. I believe she uses a variety of cameras; she does manage a Hassy quite well. Seems to me, I've seen her work with a WLF as opposed to a prism finder. (or am I imaginging that?) Anyway, if you are comfortable composing that way, a WLF is a great way to shoot. The camera is easy to handle, and your subjects hardly notice you, because you are not staring at them. Also, the lower camera postion with a WLF is great for kids.
     
  23. film_man

    film_man Member

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    I do some kids photography with a Canon 35mm system and a Hasselblad. I have no problem using the Hasselblad (very similar to the Bronica you have, which I also owned before buying the Hasselblad), you just need to realise which shots will work with it. I tend to use the Canon and the AF for fast running around shots. With the Hasselblad I'll move in once the kids settle down, playing/drawing or doing stuff generally sat down.

    I love the 6x6 and waist level finder for these kind of shots as I can maintain eye contact and it lets me shoot closer to the floor. I have also considered getting a 645 system to use instead of the Canon, purely for the speed. Not for AF (which I think is still very slow) but for the convenience of the prism viewfinder and the rectangular format+more shots per film. But everytime I get the prints back from the lab, I remind myself that the Canon is still very good.

    In any case, any camera can be used for photographing kids, you just need to use the right camera for the right situation. So decide what scenario you think you'll be using the medium format camera for and then you can decide which one to buy.

    By the way, a couple of photographers who do family photography with film are Jose Villa and Johnathan Canlas. They use a Contax 645, Holgas and Canon/Nikon 35mm systems. Canlas also uses a Fuji GF670. Incidentally, I've read on interviews that they both manually focus the Contax all the time. Don't know if it is a coincidence or they simply find the AF slow enough to not make a different to MF or something else (I also hear the Contax eats batteries quickly with AF).

    There is also Richard Israel who uses Nikon, Mamiya 645, an Olympus OM and other things for family photography. And Elisabeth Messina (Contax). Generally look for wedding film photographers and you'll find the family ones too.
     
  24. Solarize

    Solarize Member

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    I use a Bronica etrsi with prism and grip to photograph children, mixing in the 35mm if they are feeling particularly energetic. Honestly, you should manage with practice. The trick I have found is to try and slow things down. Instead of chasing the child, I'll move to where the light is best, and let them come to me. Prefocusing roughly with the camera away from my face, and making the finer adjustments while quickly composing, I tend not to miss too many shots. I'll work with two loaded backs, take light readings in advance, and not bother changing lenses.
    The Bronica is great, but I am on the lookout for a Contax... just because I want it to wind on automatically, and the viewfinder on my Bronica is a bit dull. The Contax should be brighter.
     
  25. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    I use my Bronica ETRS with speed grip and AE prism and it's light and fast. Focusing manually with my two year old is rather difficult, my then again, I am used to using a Canon 5D MkII ... it's a learning curve for me. I find the WLF on my Hasselblad near impossible to use with him moving.
     
  26. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I've made a few shots of my now 8 1/2 month old with my Pentax 645N (about a month ago). I don't think I used AF and I know it was manual everything else. I had him sitting and sorta occupied so I didn't have to worry too much about him moving. I would recommend flash to stop action or iso 400 film though.