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  1. #1

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    Black & white film/format musings

    I have been thinking about my experiences over the past few years with black and white film photography. Whenever I look at negs/prints from my Rolleiflex, I am consistently pleased with the image quality/tonality, even with very fast film. Yet more often than not, I am disappointed with my 35mm prints. It's hard to describe - the prints just lack something compared to medium format, regardless of the type of film used. I do not have similar experiences with E-6 or C-41 color films - 35 mm prints look quite good in general (although still not as impressive as with medium format). I realize that there are some situations where one clearly needs the 35mm format (e.g. fast moving low light situations). So my question is, how many of you black and white film photographers who have both 35mm and medium format cameras continue to use 35mm regularly alongside your medium format equipment. Although I don't have a digital camera and have no short term plans to get one, it seems to me that digital capture technology is rapidly rendering 35mm film based photography somewhat obsolete. I think that medium (and larger) formats still make sense for film based capture, particularly for black and white photography. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.

  2. #2
    Ole
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    I have 35mm, MF and LF (and L'er-F). I continue to use MF...

    Sometimes I want grain, and might use 35mm. But that's about it.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by valdez
    ...it seems to me that digital capture technology is rapidly rendering 35mm film based photography somewhat obsolete. I think that medium (and larger) formats still make sense for film based capture, particularly for black and white photography. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.
    It depends on many variables, and I feel they are suited to each photographer individually.

    One of the biggest groups of photographers to jump into digital with full force were MF shooters. MF equipment prices dropped as a result of a flooded marketplace. So is there still room for MF film based image making..? Absolutely. But I don't feel it has the status or importance it once had in the professional world.

    Now, many wedding photographers are shooting digital as well with pro-sumer type 35mm digital cameras... Not to mention the gadget freaks and new parents... 35mm film shooting is drying up as well. How I've seen this is the one generation turn around... My wife is a school teacher, many of the kids in her class own digital cameras and don't know what film is... How many future film users do you think will result if they've grown up with digital? How many of us grew up with vinyl records, but now own CDs? How long has it been now since you bought your last record? For me, it's probably been 10-15 years...

    Large format is becoming more of an art format in my mind... Catalogue /commercial product photography has moved to digital workflow as well... What has become of LF (IMO) is people that WANT to be in the darkoom, want a slower pace, and want to be involved, and want to get their hands dirty if you will.

    So can/will all formats survive?? In the short-term yes... But only as long as we keep buying film, paper and chemistry.

    Just my $.02

    joe

  4. #4

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    I use 35mm when I want something quick and cheap. There are times I don't want the hassle of a LF tripod. The times I want the smaller camera then my MF bodies. Or times when I'm just grabbing a shot and want a camera in the car. Something that I won't be upset about if it walks away. I don't do it if I want a good photograph. If I'm planning on something "good" I use something else.

  5. #5

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    I love shots of my kids using 35mm. Speed being important, that 'moment' looks great whatever the format. 35mm hp5 has a distinct but pleasant grain on an 8x10, but seems to suit this sort of photography. I print such shots fairly low in contrast and love the results (more than I would were the grain invisible). For landscapes I would not entertain the idea of 35mm, feeling that MF is the minimum.

  6. #6
    rbarker's Avatar
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    I shot everything from 35mm (both rangefinder and SLR) up to 8x10, and still regularly use the 35mm gear. Just depends on what I'm shooting, under what circumstances, and what my objectives are.

    As they say, whatever floats your boat.



    Leica M6TTL, 50-year old 50mm DR Summicron, Ilford FP4+ - makes a lovely 11x14.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  7. #7

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    I rarely use my 35mm equipment any more except for shooting slides and that would include Agfa Scala. Most of my shooting is now B&W 120 or 4x5 negative film.
    Brian McDowell

  8. #8
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    I'm using all formats from 35mm to 8x10. Not as much 4x5 as I used to, but that is because the 5x7 is being used more. In my MF bag, I always carrier a 35mm. After years of not using in favor of LF, I've been surprised how good it can be when done just right. It's so good for quick pix of the kids, picitures in the dark, stealth pix, etc. 35mm gives more spontaneity than the other formats, although I can do pretty well with the MF rangefinder. For 35mm, I use either a Contax G2 or a Hexar AF. Always film and always B&W.

    I also 35mm and MF to take test photos for possible 5x7 shots that I might come back for later.
    Watch for Loose Gravel

  9. #9
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    I have a 35mm Nikon and a MF Yashica TLR. I generally use both, with maybe the 35 getting a slight edge. The Yashica takes 120 film which I prefer and has very sharp optics. The Nikon SLR currently has a 28-135 macro zoom, which is handy.
    I have started looking to eventually replace the TLR... well ok maybe not exactly replace it, just have another more versatile option.
    (Nobody tell the Mrs' OK!)

  10. #10

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    I share your views on the quality of medium format black and white compared to 35mm black and white and I am shooting more medium format these days than ever, however, I continue to use 35mm.

    I like being able to carry a camera most of the time. I like being able to grab quick candid shots of people. I like being able to shoot without interferring with what people are doing. I like shooting in low light without flash. A 35mm camera works best for me in these situations. Under these conditions, a medium format is too big and heavy, a little slower and more prone to grab attention. Even a TLR is big and cumbersome compared to a Leica rangefinder--my favorite 35mm. I can also drop an Olympus XA in my pocket when I don't want to carry anything else.

    Both formats work great for me but I don't expect to get the same results out of them.

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