Moving up from 35mm to Medium Format

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by ted_smith, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Compared to most people on APUG I am a luddite photographer and have many more skills to develop before I move on from 35mm photography, not to mention the financial issues!

    However, I am curious as to what the potential benefits are to moving to medium format. I currently use a 35mm Nikon F5. If I moved to medium format, how would be images differ using the same skill level as I have now? What is the difference between an image on medium format and the same image captured with medium format equipment?

    Also, what medium format camera and lens are a good start for someone moving from 35mm to medium? Are Hasselbalds medium format, or large format?

    Ta

    Ted
     
  2. mamiya_madman

    mamiya_madman Member

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    Well Ted,
    I did my A-level last year and i was told how to use an RB67 in ten minutes flat. I absolutely fell in love with it. i took the best images of my life with it, and it had an f64 lens on it! I took some slides and some negs, and slide is well worth it if you get it right, there was a bit of resprocity failure on them (as it was over a 2 minute exposure at night, and i didn't know that existed) but the quality was beautiful. So, 12 months later, I bought one, in bits and pieces, for about £250 with a 90mm and body off eBay, and a 220 back from ffordes in Scotland. All i use is slide on them now, and i am dead chuffed with it. My suggestion is a RB67, cos they're not as expensive as a 'blad, and you get a lovely big 6x7cm neg. The only problem is... you'd need an exposure meter for them.
     
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I find that when I shoot MF (or LF) my images tend to be more studious, if not formal. The equipment tends to get used differently - 35mm is often hand-held and lends itself to quicker shooting in a greater variety of circumstances; MF (for me, at least) tends more to be on tripod... or if I "loosen up" on a monopod. The cost of MF and the metering differences, in-camera vs handheld meter, make MF a bit of a slower and more contemplative photographic experience. Image-wise, the differing ratios of the various formats is the obvious difference. I like square format o fMF much better than anything else... except maybe the ratio of 4x5. Otherwise, a well-executed image is about the same, if you don't count the "wow" that is often said when looking at the larger negs and transparencies.

    Hassy is, indeed, MF and a good place to start since used equipment can be found rather affordably these days.
     
  4. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    I think a Hasselblad, or if you want something cheaper and unique, a Mamiya 330, would be a good place to start. Both systems are inexpensive now compared to what they used to be. Having said that, coming from an F5 something like a Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645 might be an easier transition.
    Just my opinion.
     
  5. SamWeiss

    SamWeiss Member

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    Concur with Brian's assessment of the nature of the beast - each tool used in photography has its strengths and weaknesses; each implies a certain gestalt for a certain type of photography.

    The strength of MF is that roll film images are roughly 55mm high (compared to 24mm on 135 film). What this means is that if one uses 6x7 it takes less than half as much enlargement to make an 8x10" print compared to 135 film (providing of course one scales the lens focal length along with the film size.)

    The weakness of MF are many, including the fact the industry is pretty much dead and one (beginner) usually buys older gear that may not be functioning quite right.

    Currently I am using 6x7 for a project (which will take several months) to look at the world more closely (i.e., up to 1:1 in magnification). For this I compose on the ground glass using a loupe (an opaque column one, as one would use on a view camera.) 6x7 is much better for this than 645 simply because the ground glass is so much larger (plus I don't really care for 645.)

    Search APUG, Photo.net, and the web in general for a very large body of discussions on MF, its strengths and weaknesses, its fans and detractors.
     
  6. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    In the end, the major difference is the negative. The differences that tend to come up as a result of using the equipment to get the negative exist without question, but the importance of them is personal.

    I would recommend getting a decent used TLR, like a Mamiyaflex an economical way to test the waters, and always nice to have anyway. If you find yourself liking the negs, you can go on to other systems from their.
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Short answer:

    1. You'll shoot differently. As noted by others, you'll tend to be more thoughtful and shoot fewer images, but the results will be different. Some subjects won't be as well suited for medium format, but some will be much better suited. (For example, spontaneous children shots are great on 35mm but a challenge on medium format. Formal posted portraits and landscapes are wonderful on medium format, better in most cases than on 35mm.)

    2. The negative is significantly larger. This means you can make much larger prints at the same quality. Even when 35mm is entirely satisfactory in quality, larger formats have better microcontrast, which results in a more satisfying appearance that is hard to explain but fairly easy to see.

    3. Large format is 4x5" or larger (more commonly called 5x4" there). Medium format uses a film just over 60 mm wide. Images are generally shot at 6x4.5 cm, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 depending on the camera although there are some obscure cameras that use slightly different formats. 120 and 220 fim can handle this without difficulty; the larger formats simply record fewer images per roll.

    4. What camera? It's hard to say. There are a lot of choices. I chose a Bronica SQ system (SQ-A camera in my case, along with 50, 80 and 150mm lenses and several 120 and 220 backs). Because there is no digital back option for Bronica, the equipment is very affordable. This gear shoots 6x6 which I like. The ETRS series gear shoots 6x4.5, and there is a 6x7 set of gear too. Hasselblad is 6x6. Pentax has 6x4.5 and 6x7. I'm not very familiar with Mamiya or the other options.

    5. Notice I mentioned backs above. You can get different camera backs for a single camera. You can load them up with different types of film, and change on the go. This is really really useful. Not all medium format cameras can do this, but many can. If this feature sounds useful, try to find a system that supports it.
     
  8. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    Exactly as others have commented, the main benefits are that you will slow down a bit more and take a bit more care, but mainly the sheer size increase in going from 35mm to MF (a factor of about four times) will give you a quality increase in terms of grain, etc. Also, as Jim mentioned, the ability to change backs as you go is a superb benefit. I swear by my Hassy, but they are not cheap.
     
  9. Katier

    Katier Member

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    Personally I went for a TLR. There was 3 reasons for this.

    1) cheap option for trying out a new format.
    2) Square format gives another option to try ( and composing a picture with square IS different to cropping a rect to square).
    3) Compact option for some of the type of work I wanted. I use mine in urban environments so the WLF and quiet operation is very nice.
     
  10. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Ted You haven't mentioned the use to which you will put a MF camera but I note that previous posts have often centred around commercial wedding photography. If MF is being contemplated as an alternative to 35mm wedding photography then the Pentax 645N which has autofocus offers a number of advantages such as AF and its tends to be cheaper than the Mamiya equivalent. The disadvantages tend to be non interchangeable backs( Yes, you can change backs in mid roll but you can't simply push in a dark slide and then change back where you left off as you can with a Mamiya 645) This is unlikely to be an issue in wedding photography where you can simply sacrifice the rest of the roll and move to another back with different film.

    If MF is to be used for hobby photographs and especially if you intend to use a form of N, N-1 and N+1 development for B&W then the Mamiya 645 with interchangeable backs and darkslides has advantages.

    It might help if you were to say what purpose you intend to put MF to, as compared to 35mm. For instance I wouldn't bother with MF, despite there being a 80-160 zoom for the P645, if it were action photographs at the Isle of Man TT races!

    pentaxuser
     
  11. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    How much the camera will change you depends on how you work. Some people use 35mm tied to a tripod with a handheld meter. For them even an 8x10 won't change how they work that much.

    OTOH some people almost spray the camera around. Full auto with the power winder flying. For those people the bigger slower cameras will force them to change. Something like one of the auto MF won't change them to the same extent.

    So pick a camera that will fit how you'd like to work.

    I personally think an 11x14 from a 645 looks like a 5x7 from 35mm film. If you like gritty looking 35mm prints then MF might be a BAD choice. It all depends on what your final goal is.
     
  12. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Hey, thanks guys. That's very useful.

    To answer a few of the questions put to me :

    1) Usage - my main photography is dog photography (i.e. usually action or quick reaction photography), so as pentaxuser and a couple of others have said, it sounds like MF might not be suited to this, whereas my very fast F5 is.

    2) Subjects - when not photographing dogs, my other two main areas are Macro and landscapes. I imagine MF might be better suited to this, especially the landscape work, as everyone else has said.

    Well remembered!! The wedding I shot was my first one, and I'm not sure I'll be doing another. I didn't enjoy it as much as my canine work!

    Ted
     
  13. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    A Koni Omega would work fine for the work you do, and it's a 6x7 rangefinder. It'll work as fast as a non-motorized 35mm. Koni's really cheaply priced, but great rigs.

    Get a couple of backs.

    Mike
     
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  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well now, I think any MF camera with a waist level will serve you well for dog photography. Mind you, there are waistlevel options among the Nikon F's too.

    I don't think I'd want an ordinary eye-level VF for dogs and little kids and such.
     
  16. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    If you're photographing dogs. Dogs like children are fast! They are always on the go and they don't care what you are trying to achieve photography wise.
    Stick with 35mm for candid image and try your hand with medium format for more posed images.
    You could use a 645 camera. A "Glorified 35" as my old commercial lab workers would say. A wedding photographers choice of camera. But, a 6x7 camera is what I used since my early twenties. The format fits how I see with not much cropping. And I get great results from my enlargements. I rarely print anything larger then 11x14.
    The Mamiya RB is a tank and works best with a good tripod.
    My two cents.
     
  17. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Member

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    I've been a predominantly 35mm format photographer for the past 30-odd years but have had dalliances with a Mamiya C330, Mamiya 645 and Mamiya 7 until I got my hands on a Bronica SQ-B and 3 lenses (40mm, 80mm and 150mm). I still have my Nikon F100 (+ D200 and D300) and always use 35mm when I'm likely to need to shoot in a hurry.

    MF makes me slow down and think more about whet I'm doing and why. I also have to use a hand-held meter to get a proper reading and then adjust for any highlights / shadows. It's a wonderful way to work and I can't recommend the Bronica too highly. I'm sure there's a more scientific formula but I was told that, as a rule, divide the MF lens focal length by 8 and multiply by 5 to get a rough equivalent of the 35mm lens. therefore my lenses equate to 25mm, 50mm and 95mm - so I'm set for everything from landscapes to portraits.

    You'll also need a tripod as they're not always that easy to hand hold and, with the mirror locked up, you can get some incredibly sharp photos at narrow apertures.

    Good luck and I hope you enjoy MF photography. PJ.
     
  18. Alexander Ghaffari

    Alexander Ghaffari Member

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    I was just talking about dog photography the other day with my friend who was hired to take pictures of puppies.

    I thought that dogs would move all-around too, especially puppies, but he said that if you put a puppy on a two foot square table several feet above the ground, they will be scared to death and remain perfectly still. He said that instead of investing on an improved camera, use a decent camera, but invest in a two flash off camera lighting setup (syncs, flashes, stands, umbrellas). He showed me puppy prints with one off-camera flash and two, and I have to say that the two-light setup was markedly better.

    Now if you are photographing racing hounds, then by all means, use a fast lensed 35mm SLR. As for macro and landscape/architecture, which I enjoy, I can say that the RB67 with WLF is highly conducive toward those subjects. I really like using the 127mm lens with extension tubes 1 and 2 to get some very nice 1:1 shots on slide film.
     
  19. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    A very good read and a book which answers quite a few questions you have asked and a good few that you have not is : "MEDIUM AND LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY, Moving Beyond 35mm for Better Pictures" by Roger Hicks and Frances Schulz (ISBN 0-8174-4557-9). If you can lay your hands on a copy of this , (it is still in print as far as I know), you will find that it makes the case for medium and large format very convincingly. Even action photography can be approached using the right medium format equipment and a slightly different approach ie, prefocus, sportsfinders etc.
     
  20. mamiya_madman

    mamiya_madman Member

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    If you want to do fast photography on MF, try a Holga. 2 shutter speeds and a flash. You could also spool some 35mm film onto a 120 spool, and take photos like that, because you would get the image on the wind-on-hole-thingys as well. Theres no focusing needed on Holgas and they're dirt dirt cheap, about £25.
     
  21. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I agree totally. The quality of the lenses is high, and the cameras are built like tanks. They're definitely the biggest bang for the buck.
     
  22. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Stick with what works, for your work.

    But I love MF for my personal images, and occasionally 'work' work too (I work at a newspaper).

    Bronica, as well as other manufacturers, offer accessories to make shooting a lot quicker and more like 35mm work -- I'm thinking of the winder and eye-level prism for my Bronica SQ-Ai. With those on, I can hold, wind and look through the camera in a way very similar to the 35mm I started my career with.
     
  23. geoferrell

    geoferrell Member

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    I started MF with a Mamiya Super 23 and have used several MF cameras over the years. At times I've noticed that at times, people seem to view a good sharp, well exposed medium format image more often on the web. Some of my web pictures that really get more views, are most often medium format, sometimes more than 10 times the views. Overall, 35mm is easier to use and get a sharp well exposed photo, and the modern lenses are great for a variety of situations, but format is more difficult and offers fewer exposure, but when it works, it really works well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 18, 2009
  24. SamWeiss

    SamWeiss Member

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    If it were me, I'd stick with the F5 for the dogs. Years ago I tried replacing 35mm with MF for photographing moving people... just was not worth the tradeoff.

    For landscapes and macro, have you thought of visiting the LF forum?
     
  25. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    With no offence intended, if by your own admission, you are a "luddite photographer", then it is no doubt best to stick with 35mm and work through all the options it has over a long period of time, including, if financial factors allow, investing in a perspective control lens to learn about and introduce some effects and "hand-down" techniques from large format, as opposed to the less popular medium format. I used 6x6 for 4 months last year but didn't like the results or the handling of the camera (ex-pro Bronica ETRS): personal quirk; "one man's tonic is another man's poison...".

    Consider also what gains you are looking at, and if they are real. If you only print/enlarge economically to say 30x45cm, the gain of medium format, and even some large format, resolution gain will be modest. Razor sharp images are not the holy grail of photography: confidence and reach with your equipment, creative expression, visual literacy and production quality are. You must exhaust the myriad possibilities and capacities of 35mm first and never think you cannot use it again for work or play (other forum threads recently touched on this, especially one inspired post from JBrunner).

    Working with 35mm for decades, I have achieved beautiful Ciba enlargements from Velvia since 1997 to 30x45cm — any bigger and the cost of Ciba prints and museum-grade conservation framing escalates (that is, I work and produce within financial limitations). I suspect medium format filmstock will be the first to go in this digi era while 35mm will be around for a bit longer. I bought a Toyo 45 AII to explore the Zone System in greater detail, not for its resolution (it's actually more expensive to use than 35mm!).
     
  26. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I don't think of it as 'moving UP' from 35mm to medium format. I think of it as moving sideways. A medium format camera is not better than a 35mm. It's different.

    35mm cameras allow you to shoot a lot of hand held and spontaneous shots. With your F5 you can easily grasp the moment, even if you operate it manually. It's a great camera, and don't get rid of it when you get into medium format, because you may regret it.

    Medium format cameras are often used on a tripod, they slow you down somewhat, and that can be both good and bad.

    There are three solutions for getting into medium format:
    1. Rangefinder. There are Bronica, Fuji, Mamiya, and older folding cameras. They are fairly light, they handle much more like your Nikon than a Hasselblad or Contax medium format camera. Most of these cameras handle very nicely, and can be hand held and used spontaneously with great success!
    2. Twin-Lens reflex. These have one viewing lens and one taking lens. These can also be hand held with great success, especially since the shutter mechanism is so smooth and nice. It's also a good way to shoot 'inconspicuously', because few people expect you to look down into a camera to make a shot, they expect you to look 'through' it.
    3. SLR. This is the Hasselblads, the Mamiya RB/RZ67 and 645, Pentax 645/67, Contax 645, etc - and in my opinion the ones that most often require tripod mounting, mainly because they're large and somewhat bulky. With that said, I love hand holding my Hasselblad. It works really well after you get used to it. But it's nowhere near as fast as a Nikon F5.

    All three categories are fantastic solutions. I've used Fuji range finders and love them. A friend has a Mamiya 6, and that's just an awesome camera. I have owned and used Yashica and Rolleiflex TLRs, and I loved those dearly, but regretted not being able to switch lenses (the Mamiya C330 has interchangeable lenses, by the way, and it's a TLR). Then I've also used, and still use, SLRs. I've had a Mamiya 645 which was an excellent camera with kick-a$$ lenses, but I love the square, so I use a Hasselblad almost exclusively these days.

    You have a lot to think about. All I can say is choose wisely. I've had many cameras that were great, but few that completely suit my way of working. The Hasselblad is the ultimate camera for me, it may be something different for you. I like it, because it's the same format as my Holga, Agfa folder, and ZeroImage pinhole cameras - and that helps a great deal when I make prints.

    Good luck.