Moving From Digital to Film! Just bought a MF camera.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by ajk1, Aug 2, 2008.

  1. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    So I decided to finally make the big jump from digital to film…
    That’s right, I’m going old school.

    I have been using a Canon 40D for the most part (had a Rebel XTI and a backup) but I wanted to switch to medium format so I could make larger prints. I also wanted to give film a try because I want to slow down my photography and not just shoot a lot of photos at different exposures and different compositions.

    A friend sold me his Mamiya RB67 Pro S with a 6x7 120 film back and waist level viewfinder. He also included 5 Mamiya Sekor C lenses (50mm f/4.5, 65mm f/4.5, 90mm f/3.8, 127mm f/3.8 and 180mm f/4.5) and a cable release. I also recently bought a Polaris SPD500 Dual 5 Flash Meter – so I think I am good there.

    I am totally new to film and I need some advice – the last film camera I had was a 35mm point and shoot.

    What type of film would you recommend? I will mainly be using this for landscapes, cityscapes and outdoor portraits – some might be nighttime, but they would be long exposures.

    I saw that there focusing screens are among the accessories? What are they? Should I get one? Which one(s)?

    Would you suggest a prism viewfinder? Or will the waist level viewfinder suffice?

    Would I want a Polaroid back as well? What would be its use?

    Can anyone recommend a good backpack that would fit all of that?

    Is there anything else you would recommend for my medium format kit?

    I’m sure I will have more questions as I work with this camera (like where is a good gym because this thing is a beast!) but I think that is all for now.

    Of course any other advice would be great.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Frank Szabo

    Frank Szabo Member

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    In many areas, you're asking others as to what your preferences are. I haven't a clue. That said, ...

    For film, there is a great variety available in black and white, not so much in color.

    B&W's qualities are determined (my opinion) equally by the film AND chemistry combination. What works for one person may not work for the other guy. Play with it and try out different things but remember - you'll probably end up developing your own black and white. It's not difficult, but it's very much like shooting a rifle; it matters not whether you do it correctly or not. Just do what you're doing the same way every time. Consistancy means more than correctness.

    Polaroid (really a Fuji) back? Not unless you want to feed it ($1.00+/shot). Better to learn your light meter inside and out.

    I'd suggest a prism finder - I wouldn't consider using my RB without one. Get the small magnifier that fits on the prism's eyepiece when you can also. It'll help out immensely.

    Focus screens are personal preference - some are brighter than others. You may or may not need that.

    Other than loading the film, this beast works exactly like your 40D if you've selected "M" as the mode of operation. You might, instead of the Polaroid, use the Canon as a proofer. I use my 30D to proof-shoot for my 8X10. It's a lot cheaper with color film at $8-$14 per shot developed.

    Anyway - welcome to the world of film, crazy as it is.
     
  3. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    thanks for your advice...

    I cant wait to pick up some film and start playing around with this...
     
  4. Paul.A

    Paul.A Member

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    Look at the photos you took with your DSLR. Which ones do you really like, colour, black and white? Fine grained and contrasty with saturated colours try Velvia. Want to use grain as a feature of the photo try pushing some TriX. Choosing film stock is all a matter of aesthetics. I used to really love 3M 1000 iso tranny, I was going through a David Hamilton phase at the time (blimey that dates me!!!!). Then I discovered Fuji 50 and like that for shooting landscapes. Then I got into urban?street photography and chose Ilford Delta 400. Now I'm still shooting street stuff but I don't have access to a darkroom so I'm shooting Ilford XP2. So film tastes can change quite dramatically.

    I'd get a really good sturdy tripod with a good head.

    Then I would play around for a while with what you've got. After a while you'll soon know what would make life easier and then you can buy it. The beauty of the pro medium format cameras is that they are modular systems that you can to.
     
  5. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    thanks...

    i guess I will pick up some Velvia and try that out.

    I have a really sturdy manfroto tripod so I should be good there.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Are you going for color or black&white? Will you develop film and print yourself? Scan and output digital, or print optically?
    Some color films are made with scanning in mind. Black&white film - if you want to make it look good scanned (and printed) you will want a scanner that can resolve the grain of the film (which is really really tiny).
    Most people start out trying a bazillion different films. Don't do that. Stick to one film until you feel you know how to manipulate it to get what you want. When you're confident with your abilities you may want to start experimenting. Especially when you use black & white film there are many variables that determine what the final print is going to look like. If I were you, I'd start with film/chemistry that's available near you. That usually means it's from a major manufacturer and that it's likely to stick around for a while.
    I will not make any particular film / developer recommendations, because it's just my opinion on what looks good. You may think that how I use the film gives horrible results.
    Have fun. Stick to one thing for a good while, fifty rolls or so. Play around with it, learn its weaknesses and strengths.
    - Thomas
     
  7. GeoffHill

    GeoffHill Member

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    When I started, I used the meter from my 400d to expose for my hassy. Works a treat until you get used to your handheld meter.

    I wouldnt worry too much about which colour film, I don't think there are any bad ones about.

    If you want to go and shoot more black and white, then HP5 or Tri-X, and develop them yourself. Go shoot a whole pile of rolls of film, then choose which one you like yourself.
     
  8. kavandje

    kavandje Member

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    To add to all these suggestions: When I went from digital back to film, I actually restricted myself to one lens per camera (I seem to have accumulated more cameras than anticipated). Perhaps, since you're just starting out with MF, consider sticking to one lens (the 90mm is a good start), figure out what you need to adjust to compose well -- for my sins, I needed to re-learn a great deal -- and then gradually move out from there. It's easy to get distracted by gear...
     
  9. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    I doubt i would be processing the film myself - I dont have the time or knowledge to do that.

    As for what is available, I live in NJ and am within 30 minutes of B&H, Adorama and Unique Photo. So I'm not really limited by what they sell locally.

    Most of my shooting to date has been in color (I'd say 95%) I assume I would stay the same with film.

    Thanks for the advice

    I've been shooting most of my digital stuff on manual recently - using my meter (or even trying to figure it out without) So I have gotten pretty used to the meter. I think I am still going to carry a digital around with me as a back-up and also use it to see if it is a composition I like - take a few test shots with it.

    I basically used to do that with my digital... taught me so much. I limited myself to either my 50mm and 85mm lenses (which from what I read would be the equivalent of my 90mm and 180mm on my MF).

    thanks!
     
  10. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    The image on a waist level finder is reversed right to left, some people find that hard to get used to. It means that if you're following anything moving you must move your body opposite to what you see in the camera. It also means your final image is flipped from what you saw in the camera.
    Also, with the camera on a tripod you're are limited to having the camera chest high, or so, unless you have a ladder or some other support you can use to look down into the camera.
    None of this is a big deal, but a prism lets you avoid all those adjustments, at the expense of added weight.

    Waist level finders have their advantages too, weight is one. For portraits it lets you be more "in touch" with your subject, since you don't have your face hidden behind a huge camera. It lets you avoid bending over if you're doing a low angle shot from a tripod.
    WL finders are also handy if you're doing a shot from within a crowd of people, you can hold the camera over your head to get over the crowd. Once you can frame a shot accurately that way, you will have achieved WLF expert status.

    Fortunately, the RB has a rotating back, so you never have to turn the camera on its side for verticals.
     
  11. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    Good luck with your RB. I am sure you will fall in love with it once you get a few rolls through it. I won't part with mine, I love em so much I even reapir them.

    Instead of getting a prism finder that will add another 3 pounds to that beast, get a chimney finder. They are so much lighter (made of plastic) adn have an adjustable diopter, as well as some do have built in meters. The Chimney will block out external light making the screen seem brighter for that critical focusing.

    ANother good piece of equipment is a good sturdy shoulder strap. I like to sling mine over my head n shoulder with the strap adjusted so when I swing it up, it's at my perfect eye level. It will hang on under your arm, well protected and with the lens down.

    Enjoy your new toy and don't worry so much about which film you use, just take lots of pice with different films and find one that meets your taste.

    Enjoy!
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I recommend getting the left hand grip for the RB67 if you intend to hand hold it at all. I much prefer using it like that with the standard waist level finder than trying to hold it at eye level with a prism.


    Steve.
     
  13. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    thanks for the advice....

    I picked up some Fuji Velvia 100 - so I will try that. I think I am going to be scanning all of my photos, so slide film seemed right.

    Now i'm just afraid that this camera will reveal that I'm nothing more than a digital hack :tongue:
     
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  15. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    Yup, it takes some practice n patience. Burn alot of film and you'll improve much faster than you think.
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "So I decided to finally make the big jump from digital to film…"

    It is certainly much more of a jump than going the other way! Good luck. You will need a healthy work ethic and lots of patience. Laziness must be left behind if you want it to be worth your while.

    "That’s right, I’m going old school."

    Be careful of this attitude. It is part of what's killing film IMO! It's a viable medium now, in the modern day, if you just let it be. There is no reason to reject either digital or film, or to view one as old or new. They are both simply tools at your disposal. In my opinion, the working differences between the two are slim at best. (The quality difference is obscene, however, IMO.) I would not want to give up either one.

    "I have been using a Canon 40D for the most part (had a Rebel XTI and a backup) but I wanted to switch to medium format so I could make larger prints. I also wanted to give film a try because I want to slow down my photography and not just shoot a lot of photos at different exposures and different compositions."

    Film will not do that. Personal discipline will. As for image quality, you are right on the money. Medium format will kick your 40D in the shorts *IF* (BIG if) you learn to master it.

    "A friend sold me his Mamiya RB67 Pro S with a 6x7 120 film back and waist level viewfinder. He also included 5 Mamiya Sekor C lenses (50mm f/4.5, 65mm f/4.5, 90mm f/3.8, 127mm f/3.8 and 180mm f/4.5) and a cable release. I also recently bought a Polaris SPD500 Dual 5 Flash Meter – so I think I am good there."

    Sweet kit! That was (is?) one the axes of choice among commercial and editorial photographers for decades.

    "I am totally new to film and I need some advice – the last film camera I had was a 35mm point and shoot."

    Being new to film is not scary. Everything you know about photography will still hold true, with only minor working differences. Do not fear film. Attack it the same way you attack your projects with digital. Don't obsess over the medium. Obsess over the result. The technical aspects are extremely similar. A camera is a camera is a camera.

    "What type of film would you recommend? I will mainly be using this for landscapes, cityscapes and outdoor portraits – some might be nighttime, but they would be long exposures."

    I would suggest anything from Kodak, Fuji, or Ilford to start. All have a great line of products. For long exposures, I find Fuji films to be the most linear in their reciprocity characteristics...that is, they don't lose speed as badly as the exposure gets longer.

    "I saw that there focusing screens are among the accessories? What are they? Should I get one? Which one(s)?"

    I would pick the one that gives you your preferred center focusing aid (or lack thereof). The one that is in there will be fine for now, though.

    "Would you suggest a prism viewfinder? Or will the waist level viewfinder suffice?"

    Depends on lots of things. You have to make this decision. Personally, I use both the chimney and the prism on my Mamiya C33.

    "Would I want a Polaroid back as well? What would be its use?"

    It's gives you 7x7cm instant prints on Fuji instant film. If this is useful to you for any number of reasons, the back is worth getting, IMO. IMO, it is good for checking lighting ratios, composition, etc., but pretty useless for exposure and color.

    "Can anyone recommend a good backpack that would fit all of that?"

    Sorry, but I don't know about backpacks.

    "Is there anything else you would recommend for my medium format kit?"

    A high-quality tripod, a high-quality light meter, and a high-quality monopod. An enlarger. A developing tank and reels, trays, etc.

    "I’m sure I will have more questions as I work with this camera (like where is a good gym because this thing is a beast!) but I think that is all for now."

    You'll get used to it quickly. It won't seem bad at all when you make your first gorgeous print!

    "f course any other advice would be great."

    Be patient. Work hard. Don't be lazy. Learn to accept failure and learn something helpful from it. Few things that are easy are truly worth while!

    "Thanks in advance!"

    Good luck. It is a great camera you have. If you treat it right, it will amaze you and the viewers of your prints for years to come.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2008
  17. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    That's certainly sounding true.

    DO you intend to process b&w yourself, or send it out? There's nothing like the satisfaction of TOTAL control of the image, and you don't need a darkroom just to process film.

    But then we get into film stock and chemistry stock. All generally swear by what they personally use.

    After nearly 40 years doing this, my film (now that Agfa is no more) is as follows:

    Rollei Ortho25
    Efke 25
    Efke 100
    Plus-X
    Fomapan 200
    Fomapan 400
    Tri-X
    Neopan 400
    Neopan 1600 (35mm only, which I no longer shoot).

    Portra 160VC
    Portra 400NC
    Portra 400VC
    Ultra 100
    Ultra 400 (these last 2 have been discontinued in 120, becoming harder to find)

    Ektachrome 100VS
    Ektachrome 100G
    Fujichrome 400


    CHEMISTRY FOR PROCESSING B&W:
    Rodinal 1:50 10min
    HC-110 1:50 10min
    ATM 49 (haven't opened the package yet, gives vintage look to similar films)

    Each choice depends on how I want the finished image to look. I wet print my b&w negs, so how they scan is not important to me. The color I get professionally scanned, then fix flaws in Aperture or just iPhoto, and print that way.

    My 2¢
     
  18. max_ebb

    max_ebb Member

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    I don't process my own film (mostly color negative film), but I do my own RA4 color printing. With drum processing, you don't need a large dark room. It just has to be large enough to expose the print on the enlarger and put it in the processing drum. Once in the drum, it can be processed in daylight. I expose prints in the dark room and my wife processes them in the kitchen. I also have a 17" commercial ink jet printer, and with the cost of ink and photo paper for the printer vs the cost of paper and chemicals, I can actually make prints cheaper using the enlarger and chemical process than I can with the ink jet printer.

    Enlargers are dirt cheap now a days.
     
  19. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    I dont think i'm going to be developing my own film... at least not yet.

    I want to first get a handle on the new camera and shooting film. That should take me a few years... then we can talk developing :tongue:
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I would straight away quit focusing on the fact that it is film. It is a camera; a high-quality camera. You have it because it can give you better quality for less money than your digital, and that is it. If you are good with the basics of photography in general, it should take you effectively no time at all to adapt to the new camera...and the fact that it takes film instead of CF cards will have almost nothing to do with this learning curve.

    If you have a lot of money and want to trust your creative control to the hands of lab technicians, have at it as you plan. If you want fine control over what you are doing, you will do it yourself. Do you have a lab do all your digital editing for you? No, because they wouldn't do it *just right*, the way you would do it. That is the digital equivalent of processing and printing.

    I can only hope that you will embrace the challenges and difficulties of the craft, and give up the fear and plans of laziness! One thing is true, in my experience: You only get out what you put in. If you are unwilling to work hard, do things that are difficult, try things, take chances, etc. you will get work that looks just like it!

    If it just becomes too much hassle, I will buy your kit! :D
     
  21. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    Not really. It all depends on the capabilities of the individual.

    But you should pick 1 film, shoot it for 1 year, learning what it can & can't do.
    Purchase a spiral binder and take notes everytime you go out, and every frame you take.

    But during testing is not the time for 1-time only shots. Try shooting your house, in various light throughout the day. This will teach you faster than any other method I've taught.
     
  22. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    i think what i meant was get a handle on shooting a purely mechanical camera at the same time as not having an instant replay to let me know i got the shot right.

    Truth is, I dont shoot tons of photos with my digital... I may take a few more than I would with film, but i usually get it right the first time. Plus I usually shoot on manual (at work - pr, sports, events photography - and for fun).

    If i were moving to a 35mm film slr - i would be less wary - I would still have many of the automated control but not have the crutch of reviewing my photos. Here I am getting rid of that crutch at the same time as familiarizing myself with a fully mechanical camera. I just dont want to have to work on learning how to develop my film at the same time. Plus this camera is not something i plan on using regularly at work - my dslr is still the logical choice for work since most of my photos are used for print publications or online and it is nice to have a digital file right away. This camera is really for my personal use.

    I just think i should take it one step at a time and not worry about processing yet (plus it is an expense to invest in the equipment, even if I can get it dirt cheap on ebay)
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    ajk1:

    There are a number of reasons to consider doing your own processing, but for me the most important is that there is a real synergy between using your camera and developing your film.

    I'm not saying that you cannot have a satisfactory experience if someone else does your developing for you. What I am saying is that if you do both, experience with each part enhances the experience with the other part.

    If you are going to refrain from developing, I would strongly suggest using slide film, and getting and using a slide projector. Nothing will challenge you more, or teach you more, than that experience (unless it is developing and printing your own).

    Matt
     
  24. Terrence Brennan

    Terrence Brennan Member

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    Analog ROCKS!

    Good for you for reversing a sad trend...be truly daring and do your own darkroom work, at least in B&W. You will be pleasantly surprised what skills a little practice will give you.

    And remember, you are moving from fauxtography to photography, "writing with light."
     
  25. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    All you are doing sounds reasonable and a good way to go. I would try some colour negative film as well as reversal however. The big advantage here is the "dynamic range". Both colour reversal and digital sensors will only give you about 5 stops between just textured highlights and just-textured shadows in the scene (sometimes less). Colour negative will give you at least another 2 stops. Of course, you may just prefer the look of the transparencies... The other up-side is that you may find it easier to find a local lab to process medium format C41 negative than E6 reversal these days.

    The down side is that some scanners reportedly have some trouble scanning through the orange mask of colour negs but as I don't scan to print I'm not that up on current trends in that area (and it's off-topic for APUG anyway even if I were).

    For film I'd suggest 50-200 ISO/ASA when you are using the tripod and 400 ISO/ASA for handheld or low light. Any of the big-three (Kodak, Fuji & Ilford (b&w only)) films are of the highest quality. There are smaller companies that produce excellent products, but as a beginner, stick with the big-3 and perhaps experiment later.

    Don't be discouraged if the first few rolls are a bit pants compared to what you are getting now. As you can't see what you have done until you get the film back, the learning curve takes a bit longer to climb.

    Have fun, Bob.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2008
  26. ajk1

    ajk1 Member

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    well... i wouldn't call digital photography that (then again, I may be opening up a can of worms on this board :tongue: )
    It's just me using the tools in front of me... right now i photograph digitally... in a few days i will be photographing of film and digital...

    I think neither is the enemy... just like 35mm isnt the enemy of large format... its all just different tools.

    :smile: