When to choose Medium Format.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Top-Cat, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. Top-Cat

    Top-Cat Member

    Messages:
    119
    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Ever since I ended up with so many cameras that I started spending (well more like wasting) time considering which camera to take with me, I think it must've been when I got my Mamiya 645 package - I've turned away from wondering what camera will let you take the technically best picture, to thinking about how to premeditate what you're trying to shoot and when to pick the camera that let's you do that while at the same time not getting in the way of experimenting.

    The 645 system taught me two things.

    1. The MF folding camera I already had was way more amazing than I thought it was (considering I got it really cheap)

    and (as somewhat of a contradictory statement to the first one)...

    2. The SLR viewfinder is one of the greatest things to have on a portable camera (I.e. smaller cameras than large format) for composition, and not just because it's a modular system.

    Because the thing is, even though I often try to put the Mamiya system to good use, there's just something about it that can make it slightly challenging as far as weight and size is concerned - and even though the folding camera is great, I still think that the SLR is the real "artists" tool as opposed to RF seeing as an SLR offers much more than just avoiding parallax, it also gives a larger better view of what you're taking a picture of as well as it's easier to get the focus right if you're working with manual focus (and seeing as this is analog photography, manual focus is pretty much what most people will have to deal with) - real compositional factors that I think matter more for the artistic control freak.

    Now I've just recently discovered there's even a possibility for making money shooting analog MF for stock ( http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&userID=359175 ) and even by sticking to black and white - something I'm considering trying for myself with a bit of practise being a bit nicer to my negatives and all that, but by that I find I need to find those motifs and situations when you can chose the medium format over smaller cameras.

    So I'm asking: when do you shoot medium format? And I'm not just thinking of some simplified answer like: MF for studio and rangefinder MF for walkaround etc...
    I'm thinking, how do you set yourself up for shooting medium format, how do you visualize a medium format picture - how do you manage to haul around a bigger camera that still allows you to see what you're doing without the size of it getting in your way?
     
  2. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

    Messages:
    5,682
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2007
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    MF is 'standard' for me.
    Other formats only when absolutely needed.

    Which means, i guess, it's MF all of the time.

    Visualising, getting creative, etc. is all 'basic photography', and is the same whatever format you choose.

    Big cameras are a pain in the rear because they are big. A solution to that is use a smaller camera.
    Small formats don't deliver enough quality. A solution to that is to move up a format.
    And then you end up with MF: the perfect solution. Small enough (most, but not all) and delivering quality images.

    The point is somewhat defeated when you begin to use MF cameras as big and heavy as LF camera, or 35 mm cameras as big and heavy as MF cameras.
    So it's not just a film format thing.
     
  3. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

    Messages:
    2,258
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Location:
    Warwickshire
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have two choices of format: 135, 645. I print 35mm negs at 5x7 on 10x8 paper and I print 645 negs at 10x8 on 10x8 paper. So the only difference is really the size of the border.

    My main camera is a 35mm P&S. Given this, a 35mm SLR is step up in terms of lugging weight and 645 is even more so. In order to justify the hassle and discomfort of carrying heavy stuff (bear in mind I hate carrying anything) I've got to have something in mind. My logic is usually like this:

    Speculative shooting (carry everywhere camera): P&S
    Something interesting will probably happen (nice light, you never know your luck): SLR
    I'm going to shoot something specific that will be printed (I'm going to do a portrait session): 645
     
  4. Top-Cat

    Top-Cat Member

    Messages:
    119
    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I agree with medium format adding to resolution, different DOF qualities, aspect ratio variations as well of as having an all over different "feel" to it - yet still, seeing how film has changed since the fifties, and with examples like "The Afgan Girl" (being taken with a Nikon FM2 and a third party lens) I don't really see it as that black and white (no pun intended) with medium format being the "only" professionals choice of format.

    Yet still, I would like to try and see if I can really get that different medium format quality by going up in format size, even though I still very much enjoy the spontaneity and feel of 35mm manual focus SLRs.

    Maybe it's just that - while playing with film photography, and how you can get all sorts of great equipment so cheap, it's hard not to end up too gearheaded - maybe I should go back to more basic aspects of visual arts like drawing, or just shooting more randomly for a while and see where that takes me, it's just that working with something for a while, you kind of notice the monotony of what you're doing and want to go for some more interesting subject matter - but that can also hold you back seeing as getting more afraid of shooting hoping to save the shots for something better keeps one (by one I mean me of course) away from just working/playing with taking pictures.
     
  5. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,379
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Many modern "Miniature"cameras are as big and heavy as M/F cameras http://www.jafaphotography.com/images/eq/f6hs.jpg, if you read photographic literature from the 1930s M/F was considered to be a miniature format in those days, IMO the bottom line is if you want the photo-technical quality that 120 film is capable of you have to "Suffer for your Art" and lug the stuff about.
     
  6. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,941
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Top-Cat,
    I do believe "Afghan Girl" was taken with a 105mm/2.5 Nikkor.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2010
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    9,052
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I was shocked the first time I saw a Nikon F4. It was hard to believe that it created images on the film just a little bit bigger than postage stamps.


    Steve.
     
  8. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,936
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Location:
    south centra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No more than a couple times a year do I use any of my F's, F3, or EL2. Almost never use the Hassy kit now that I have a Koni-Omega 100 ( it is 1,000 times easier to focus than the hassy even with its accumatte (sp) split image screen). If I'm taking a camera (not near as often as I'd like) it's the Zone VI 4x5.

    I guess I burn more film through the Koni, but carry the Zone VI more often. The Koni's rangefinder is a dream to focus.

    I do have a 35mm Ricoh something with a couple lens we take to the NC beach every other summer to use in the surf.

    Wife always has a little Olympus zoom point and shoot in her purse for snaps of the grand kid.

    Mike
     
  9. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,396
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    Location:
    northern Pa.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My preferrence is for square format first and formost, followed by 4x5. I rarely pick up a 35mm these days. My twelve year old daughter loves 35mm, and 4x5, lately she has been eye-balling my Mamiya C-220 and asking many questions about using it,I caught her burning a roll of CHS-25 I had loaded in my C-330(portraits of mom and sis:cool:). I guess what I'm saying here is to shoot what you love most, and not be too overly concerned with the rest(unless you have a specific project planned for one format).
     
  10. Top-Cat

    Top-Cat Member

    Messages:
    119
    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    You're probably right, I checked the article again and saw that they said the same (that it was a nikkor lens) - I must have misread as I thought I saw the word "soligor" in there somewhere, but it still doesn't change the fact that it was a 35mm camera, which goes to show (among a whole lot of other important photographs) that the 35mm format isn't as "amateur" as people like to have it - the artists choice of tools vary, not necessarily according to strict technical detail (I mean, people who work in a creative field are primarily creative, not necessarily scientists), but according to what gets the job done the way they like it.
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,315
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For me, anything smaller than 5x7 is "toy format". That said, I have an RB67 and a Rolleiflex. The RB is reserved mostly for studio shooting when I want to do color, and the Rollei is for snap-shooting on the street. It's really a matter of horses for courses - when I'm traveling, especially someplace I've not been before, I take my Contax G2 outfit. Some day I will actually take my 14x17 camera on the road with me, but that will wait for a time when air travel either becomes reasonable again, or for a destination I can drive to.
     
  12. jp498

    jp498 Member

    Messages:
    1,467
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Location:
    Owls Head ME
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I like the square 6x6cm format, so that draws me to use MF sometimes. (TLR user here)

    I use 35mm if I NEED autofocus (such as photographing kids in existing light, etc..) and 1.4/1.8 lenses. I don't use it as much as other things because I'm kinda spoiled by the image quality of MF and LF. That said, the grittiness of 35mm is sometimes just what you want too.

    I'll use the TLR for kids indoors IFF I am using the big studio flash where I can set the aperture and not have to focus constantly. I'll take the TLR for walks sometime with B&W film instead of the DSLR if I don't feel the color quality will do anything exciting in color digital. Lots of non-tripod applications for MF. TMY2 film really makes a high quality B&W negative in MF. I've made some nice 15" square prints on 16x20 paper. I don't decide purely on the basis of weight but my Yashica TLR seems lighter than my F4s+lens. A TLR is also deceptively cute and friendly if you are photographing people. Not the most versatile technical choice, but people love them.

    Then for the next step up in image quality, I'll put a couple film holders (in antistatic bags) in my pocket and drag around my 4x5 speed graphic and maybe tiltall tripod. Stunning 16x20 B&W images. Every shot can be processed different if I want. Far surpasses the MF, the DSLR, etc... Not practical if you need to be quick. More DOF and lens options than the TLR. Can even do instant fujiroid pictures.
     
  13. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,345
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2008
    Location:
    florida
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    B&W MF square is my mainstay and 4x5 when the situation permits. 35mm for family parties so I don't have to make prints for everyone. The family party stuff is switching to dare I say "digital" so I don't have to make a trip to the drugstore - just burn a cd or email and they are on their own.

    Tomorrow morning it's into the darkroom with some new negatives eagerly awaiting to be printed. Ilford Delta400 in 120 and Ilford HP5 in 4x5.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

    Messages:
    506
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2005
    Location:
    Oxford, Engl
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Like some of the others here, I like the 6x6 square format, too, and I like the compact, self-enclosed nature of TLRs, so I use a Rolleiflex most of the time. I probably alternate about 50/50 between MF [almost all with the Rollei, although I do own other MF cameras], and 35mm, where I use rangefinders and compacts most of the time, with the occasional SLR.

    I find a TLR suits my way of working; it's compact, the image quality is more than adequate for me, it fits in a small bag and isn't any larger or less convenient than a 35mm SLR. I also like waist-level finders, so that suits me, too. I agree with everything jp498 says about the friendly nature of the TLR when shooting people.

    I've experimented a bit recently with 5"x4", but, so far, I haven't found it offering me much that I can't get from my Rollei in terms of image quality [I'm not set up to make big enlargements].
     
  16. winger

    winger Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,880
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2005
    Location:
    southwest PA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use my Pentax 645N the way many use 35mm. It's just a little heavier, but I can still carry it out in the woods a decent distance. I tend to use 35mm if I don't know what I'll find or if I'm shooting mainly snapshots. The 645 goes if I have a reasonable suspicion of finding something I'll want to enlarge. If I know I'll find something on an easy trail or close to a parking lot, I'll take the 4x5 (it's a monorail). I just picked up a speed graphic, so I may take that a little further into the woods.
    Since I also have a currently 18 pound baby to haul around, that gets balanced against the camera weight. I'm looking for off-road strollers on craigslist.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,458
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The Hasselblad is my main camera, then 4x5. 35mm is not used much and when it is used it is for photographs on the fly.

    Steve
     
  18. slgriffith

    slgriffith Member

    Messages:
    3
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Wow. Great question and awesome answers.
     
  19. Top-Cat

    Top-Cat Member

    Messages:
    119
    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Seems like there's a whole lot of people who're into Medium Format who also get into Large Format as well - I've yet to try that out (though I should spend a year or two figuring out the cameras I already have), though the ground glass experience of a real good modular LF camera sounds tempting, I should still figure out how to exploit the different DOF and resolution aspects of the 645 and 6X6 format.

    I just got into photography about two years ago, before I thought of photographers as tourists and annoying snapshooters and not as artists like illustrators and painters - the ones I looked up to as I love drawing the most to begin with, all in all I'm not too worried about always having a great quality image, as photoshop and drawing skills can often make use of those interesting, yet technically lacking shots.

    Because of all that, and that I first learned about developing photos by B&W darkroom processing, I've yet to try out Velvia and color negatives processed from the store, and seeing as I just got access to a scanner, I guess I should leave my comfort zone of what I'm used to and try that as well.

    Considering all the answers here, there still seems like there's a lot of compromises made for camera to film size ratio here, with the TLR's and all - seeing as I've to deal with something as "small" as a 645 system I guess I should just start getting used to stripping down the camera, only carrying one or two lenses, using the manual winder, maybe even the waist level finder and all that.
     
  20. guitstik

    guitstik Member

    Messages:
    1,098
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Location:
    Eads TN.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I carry a camera with me everyday, usually three at one time. For daily carry those cameras are 35mm and that is because of the convenience factor. I tried carrying my 645 and the 67 (not at the same time) but they were just a little to inconvenient to do so on a daily basis. Now the only time I carry the MF cameras is when I have a specific idea for a shot and I want the ability to enlarge beyond the 8x10 limitation of 35mm. I must say tho that if I load the 35mm with a slower speed film like 25, 50 or even 100 ASA, that I can usually enlarge beyond what is normally considered the limit for that format with out a lot of grain.
     
  21. Thingy

    Thingy Member

    Messages:
    189
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Location:
    London, Engl
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've been moving away from 35mm format film (though digital is another matter: I'm moving towards full-frame 35mm format). These days I tend to use 5x4 for landscape and architectural photography and am finding my new (secondhand) Mamiya 645 Pro TL (with metered prism viewfinder) my preference for macrophotography - though I still prefer large format macrophotography with stationery objects. The Mamiya 645s are heavy when one is used to conventional 35mm cameras, but lightweight compared to large format equipment. Unless you need to do close-up portraiture or macrophotography, I would suggest you look at the Mamiya 7 (6x7cm format rangefinder cameras) series cameras. I know of at least one professional landscape photographer in London who uses a Mamiya 7 for ALL his landscape work, on the grounds that it is more portable.

    Link: http://www.mamiya.co.uk/products.php?id=7&body=true
     
  22. bblhed

    bblhed Member

    Messages:
    602
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    Location:
    North Americ
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You are correct http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl check the link for confirmation, that is an amazing lens I really love mine and the results I get with it.

    Anyway, I shoot Medium format most of the time. I have folders, I have a Pentax 6X7, I even have a Kodak Douflex twin lens. For me it is less of a question of what format, and a question of what type of camera today? I tend to carry a folder of some sort if I want a pocket point and shoot for the day, on vacation, and when I am hiking or rock climbing. I use the 6X7 for landscape, and casual stuff where I might want to have sharp focus, or better DOF control, and the weight is not a problem, that said I have taken it hiking but by the end I wished I had a backpack for it.

    If I am shooting action, stuff I need a zoom for, things where I need both auto focus and a motor drive, I shoot with the 35mm. If I want something that only one of my 35mm lenses will deliver I shoot 35mm. They are also nice for vacation because of their size and the availability of film on the road.

    I do have to admit, that sometimes no mater how heavy or awkward it might be I have carried a medium format to places I would rather not have because I wanted something only the lens on that camera would do.

    I shoot Stereo Photos only in 35mm because that't how I roll.
     
  23. theoria

    theoria Member

    Messages:
    53
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2010
    Location:
    Bucharest
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm doing MF street photography. I am a former digital shooter, converted to film due the way it looks and then to MF, because of the way it handles perspective and DOF. The carry around camera solution I found was to buy a MF rangefinder (well, I bought two). There are plenty of sweet folding 6x6 or 6x9s around, which are cheap, pocketable, silent and have very good optics, sometimes rivaling contemporary MF lenses.
     
  24. r1ma

    r1ma Member

    Messages:
    35
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Location:
    Sacramento,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The only time I don't use MF is if I'm hiking more than 15 miles, or if the emulsion I want to use isn't available in 120/220.

    One of these days I'll learn how to use my 4x5 monorail and use that for stuff that doesn't move and within 100m of a car :wink: Or if I get a pack mule to carry all of it lol. But again, there is even a bigger emulsion problem there...
     
  25. atlcruiser

    atlcruiser Member

    Messages:
    100
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is a good thread for me!

    I am leaving next week for a week in the evergades nat park and big cypress preserve. We wil be camping, looking around and taking pictures.

    MY kit.....:smile:!
    leica M8
    leica M6
    Hassy x pan
    Mamiya 7
    Mamiya RZ67

    I really thoguht about this a bit...
    M8 for an "always with me" body. My GF does appreciate the digital files for speed of view and the IQ is amazing
    M6 for 35mm B+W if I dont feel like the mamiya 7 or if i need lens options I do not have in the mamiya 7 OR if I want to shoot a bunch and not fool with changing film all the time
    X pan....I really consider this MF. I swap B+W with extachrome in it. B+W seems to be more "street" style trip photos and the extachrome sems to be more didicated, composed, tripod mounted photos.
    Mamiya 7. The main user. I use this for almost everything and it gets the most use after the M8
    Mamia RZ67. I use this when I have gone out with the intention of taking pictures. It is not a "carry round" camera at all! I have the kit set up in such a way I can lug it some distance in only minor misery. I enjoy it the most and believe it produces the best quality negatives.

    I wll be vehicle based for this trip!

    Day to day I am sold on the M8/mamiya 7 combo :smile:
     
  26. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

    Messages:
    2,258
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Location:
    Warwickshire
    Shooter:
    35mm
    David, a question for you:

    What would you take if you were on foot?