Polaroid camera to help set up studio lights?

Discussion in 'Instant Cameras, Backs and Film' started by newcan1, Jul 3, 2012.

  1. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    I am beginning to learn about studio lighting for portraiture and fashion images. It is of course rather hard to set up strobe/flash lights and get a definitive sense of how they will look when using exclusively film cameras, as you don't really find out until the film is developed. The evil part of me thought maybe I should buy an older model di**tal SLR, but that would be very bad indeed. I remember when we lived in Connecticut, we used to know an Old School commercial photographer that used a Polaroid camera to help verify his lighting setups.

    So my question: What would be a suitable/highly affordable Polaroid camera for this purpose? And what format Fuji film would I need for it? I am assuming something with sufficient manual settings that I could set it up with the aperture etc I would be using for my "real" shots.

    I could probably get an older model DSLR for $200 or so and that may be the way to go, but it seems highly heretical, and if I can keep my activities fully entrenched in the world of film, that would be highly desirable. It is very hard for me to fathom the notion of a robot with a lens on it. So before anyone gets highly agitated -- this post is indeed 100% about "analog" photography.
     
  2. donkee

    donkee Member

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    I have a 195 Polaroid that i used to use for the same reasons.

    A fully manual Polaroid, unless you find it on craigslist from someone who is clueless, will not be cheap.

    What are you using now? It is possible that a polaroid back may be available for whatever system you are using.
     
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    So let me be the one to give "D" some love. It might be desireable to stay fully in the world of film, but for the part of the process for which you are considering Polaroid-like products... "D" is very practical.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    p.s. So before anyone gets highly agitated -- the prior post was indeed entirely about photography. :laugh:
     
  5. ColdEye

    ColdEye Member

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    +2 I'd say go with digital on this. :tongue: buy a cheapish old dslr and it will work just fine. I had a polaroid 320 and I dont remember it having connections for a flash (maybe the other models have).
     
  6. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    Commercial photographers didn't use polaroid cameras to test lighting. They used Polaroid film in specially made polaroid film holders that attached to medium format cameras in place of the normal 120 film back, or that fit in a 4x5 camera's film holder slot. The results needed some interpretation because Polaroid film gave a different look than the E-6 films most of them used for the final image. I think an old digital SLR would be best for this today, given the extreme cost of instant films now; I wouldn't see it as a 'sin' by APUGs ethic because you're still going to use film for the final image.
     
  7. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    You can find Polaroid backs for some 35mm SLRs for very low prices now, if you look. The image isn't full size, but if you just want to proof your exposure and lighting, it will work. Getting a medium format camera with a Polaroid pack film back might be better than the 35mm ones, and it could be cheaper than a dedicated Polaroid with manual settings. In any case, you'll want the Fuji 3x4 pack films (peel-apart, not integral film). As far as I know you can get 100 ISO color and 3000 ISO b+w.
     
  8. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    OK all -- I read through the comments and -- well -- forgive me -- I went "D" for this purpose. But I PROMISE I will only use the "D" to set up the lights. The photographs I use will indeed be on film. Now I have some Portra 160 and Fuji Pro S 160 to try out, and I may have to get and try some of the new Portra 400. The big looming project is catalog shots for my daughter's new fashion design business.
     
  9. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Now you have fully redeemed yourself! Good luck with your photo project, and your daughter's design biz.
     
  10. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    ...just use the phone on your camera for lighting reference and learn how to meter better and you won't have to spend a dime. If you can see how the light reacts with your subject from a shot on your phone (I'm assuming you have a phone that takes photos), then pull out the meter and take the appropriate readings based on what your preference is. This is assuming that you have pretty good visualizing skills and you are a little beyond the basics of metering.
     
  11. SteveR

    SteveR Member

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    In the studio I use a digital light meter... OH MY GOODNESS!!! I had no idea how bad I was being, I should be burnt at the stake!! ...sheesh, are you going to print the pics from your digital 'light meter'? Or sell the files? Or even show ANYONE?! If you're learning, in this day and age it's the easiest and most accessible way (with old Digi cameras going for less than any of my meters), so quit your puritanical belly-aching and get on with it! ...IMO...
     
  12. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    I'm not sure how I could sync the phone to the flashes. Right now all I have is a bunch of Vivitar 283's, I have made some brackets that will mount them together with daylight regular light bulbs as sort of modeling lights, but I wonder how accurate a rendition those would give. As for metering, I am not sure if my flash meter does reflected light readings in flash mode or just incident light readings; the former would be very useful for estimating light coverages as you have suggested. A book I am using for reference suggests adjusting the light intensities based on reflected readings but I have never used my meter as a flash meter this way, and the user's guide has long disappeared. I liked the idea of a Polaroid or d**tal camera with the same manual controls as my "real" cameras to get a more precise indication of how the final shots would look - but you are probably right, atleast I think you suggest implicitly, that with experience perhaps the need to do this goes away.
     
  13. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I recently did a studio portrait job both digitally and with film. the digital looked terrible and film looked perfect. Just saying...
    For me an indispensable tool is a mirror.
    Dennis
     
  14. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    I dunno, maybe they should bring back burning at the stake ...... would the byproduct include chemicals that could be used to develop film? :smile:
     
  15. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Digital cameras are photographic tools that are ideally suited for certain tasks. To not use them out of some purist sensibility makes little sense to me. The money spent to obtain a suitable polaroid camera and film supplies could be better spent on the film that is actually going to be used to make the final photographs. I would (and have) used digital cameras for this sort of purpose without one iota of guilt or shame.
     
  16. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    Dan, StevR: I do of course agree with you. In fact, upon perusing this thread and thinking about it more, I have gone ahead and arranged to acquire a Nikon D100 back. It is supposed to arrive Monday. I can use it fully manually with my existing lenses and external metering, and it will be a good tool to use for projects like this, or indeed any project where previewing the lighting before using up precious film is important.

    I didn't really want to burn anyone at the stake, especially as I would now have to include myself. The final pics I will shoot on Portra 160 or 400, depending on how the lighting works out.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Using digital tools is not cause to be burnt at the stake.

    Using APUG to discuss using digital tools is cause to be (at least figuratively) burnt at the stake.

    The difference is subtle, but important.
     
  18. aterimagery

    aterimagery Member

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    I've used Hasselblad and Mamiya medium format cameras with FP-3000B just to learn about how things used to be done.

    The main problems with this are that if you use something like Illford PAN-F Plus ISO 50 like I was, you have to do some stuff like take photos of a gray patch chart to see how much EV compensation (in addition to the compensation for the difference between ISO 3000 and 50) is needed for a correct exposure. For example, after the ISO conversion I found that I needed something like +0.5EV for the instant film and +1 or +1.5EV on my negative film (reading from from EV compensation set to 0 on my light meter.) This is because the real ISO of film is never exactly the even number it's supposed to be.

    Also, instant film seems to have a rather curvy high-contrast tone response curve. Newer films will be more linear in their tone response. Therefore even if you figure out the exposure adjustments needed to get both films to expose the same for middle gray, the instant film will probably have poorer dynamic range and higher contrast compared to normally developed negative film, even if both are relatively modern. So shadows that look plugged and highlights that look totally blown on instant film may be perfectly acceptable on your "real" negative film.

    In short, I doubt that instant film is ever going to show you exactly what you want and you'll have to spend some time figuring out what sorts of things that look bad on instant are actually OK on negative film.

    Using digital for "proofs" is probably your best bet, but digital sensors tend to not have as good dynamic range as negative film that's exposed exactly +/-0 stops from perfect. So even then you probably won't get something exact, but it'll probably be much better than instant. Anyway, digital sensors tend to be very linear. Depending on how the RAW from the sensor is processed, you might be shown the "wrong" tone curve on a digital camera. I think most digital cameras tend to use a film-like gamma curve though so I'm guessing that will be close enough for most purposes. To do any better you'd have to match the film's tone curve in something like Adobe Camera Raw, and furthermore come up with some sort of single-shot "high dynamic range" tweaking to make the dynamic range look closer to film.

    At least that's what I think the deal is based on my studies....
     
  19. SteveR

    SteveR Member

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    Just for a little perspective, there is a fellow forum member and large format hiking buddy (who shall remain nameless) who purchased a new digital light meter before a previous hike... Pity it was trapped inside a canon 7d, but still, it metered well, and also replaced his Linhof viewer at the same time... Quite a useful accessory really... And you can't tell me his chromes looked any worse for not using a composition card and a sundial...