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  1. #1

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    Portra 160 and 400: Squeezing out medium format?

    I have prints in sizes ranging from 4x6 to 11x14 from Portra 160 and 400 (scan-and-inkjet) that are awesome. These are from 35mm exposures on my Nikon F100 or Pentax PZ-1p. I also have prints at sizes up to 16x20 in Acros 100 (35mm, wet and scan-and-inkjet prints). They look beautiful. I'd say they rival prints from 4x5 FP4 in terms of sharpness, tonality, grain, etc.

    My question is; are these new films squeezing out medium format? It used to be we needed 120 to get us above 8x10 prints. Now I can get suitable 16x20's out of 35mm film. Obviously 120 is a larger negative, and thus offers larger size prints, but I have never needed to go larger than 16x20. If I wanted more, I'd probably shoot 4x5.

    This thought came to my mind as I was soliciting ideas as to a good setup for film-based wedding photography; everyone suggested medium format. I questioned why to myself, since I can get good prints from 35mm films.

    The question I suppose is this: is medium format still relevant? When we have 35mm films that can comfortably provide 16x20 prints, why do I need a Hasselblad or Pentax 67 outfit? I think LF still has a very noble purpose; the ability for movements is one that cannot be understated. But I'm unaware of any medium format cameras that provide movements (other than tilt/shift lenses). Why shoot it?

    This is just food for thought; I love my Mamiya m645 as much as I love my LX. I just think it could make an interesting discussion.

  2. #2

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    Maybe, I mean on twinlenslife.com, they have an article showing Ektar 100 in 35mm outresolving a Canon 5D Mk II. I'm not sure how many of us need more resolution than that. But then, many MF cameras are cheap, and while you need the best processsing, and best scanning to get that out of 35mm, you don't for MF.

    And then there is the "look", a Rolleiflex has such a beautiful and distinctive look which I'm not sure can be had from 35mm.

    So, I agree that modern film means that MF is not needed for really quite large prints, MF of course goes bigger and has a different appearance that many love. And then of course you've got formats like 6x12 or 6x17 which make spectacular panoramas very difficult to get elsewhere.

  3. #3
    Athiril's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brofkand View Post
    I have prints in sizes ranging from 4x6 to 11x14 from Portra 160 and 400 (scan-and-inkjet) that are awesome. These are from 35mm exposures on my Nikon F100 or Pentax PZ-1p. I also have prints at sizes up to 16x20 in Acros 100 (35mm, wet and scan-and-inkjet prints). They look beautiful. I'd say they rival prints from 4x5 FP4 in terms of sharpness, tonality, grain, etc.

    My question is; are these new films squeezing out medium format? It used to be we needed 120 to get us above 8x10 prints. Now I can get suitable 16x20's out of 35mm film. Obviously 120 is a larger negative, and thus offers larger size prints, but I have never needed to go larger than 16x20. If I wanted more, I'd probably shoot 4x5.

    This thought came to my mind as I was soliciting ideas as to a good setup for film-based wedding photography; everyone suggested medium format. I questioned why to myself, since I can get good prints from 35mm films.

    The question I suppose is this: is medium format still relevant? When we have 35mm films that can comfortably provide 16x20 prints, why do I need a Hasselblad or Pentax 67 outfit? I think LF still has a very noble purpose; the ability for movements is one that cannot be understated. But I'm unaware of any medium format cameras that provide movements (other than tilt/shift lenses). Why shoot it?

    This is just food for thought; I love my Mamiya m645 as much as I love my LX. I just think it could make an interesting discussion.
    I shoot Portra 160 and 400 in 6x7cm, mainly what I shoot atm. 645 is going to be medium format of choice for weddings, don't go 6x7. You will get noticeably better prints from proper scans (not flatbed rubbish) from MF, not merely suitable prints at X size.

    M645 is ideal imho for weddings, reasonable size and lightweight. Load up a few inserts or backs so you can keep shooting, 220 would be good for that.

    Plus you get the 80/1.9 for indoors.

    In any case, personally I'd keep the 645 for some of the more special shots that clients like to get printed larger than others.


    Though if you plan on shooting MF as a bigger portion at a wedding, get the power winder, and go 220 imho, have other backs ready to go. I've used my RB67 as one of the primary cameras at a wedding. Couple shots at ceremony inside church, mostly digital for that, since its a faster workflow cam, though would have used 645/220 for that if I had it.

    RB67 people and group shots afterwards, and reception (with flash).

    Don't go 6x7 lol... size, weight, 10 shots per 120, time to make each shot..

  4. #4
    RPC
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    I see you are a 35mm shooter, so have you compared 120 portra to 35mm? I don't do scan and inkjet, but make darkroom prints and I see a noticable difference in tonality and detail between prints from 120 and 35mm, but not as much of a difference between 120 and 4x5. It is as though after you reach a certain size, you don't get that much more back by increasing it. Therefore, personally if I were going to do pro work I would use 120 whenever practical.

  5. #5
    cjbecker's Avatar
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    To me no. There's something about the smoothness of medium format compaired to 35. Same with medium format compaired to 4x5. This os also not talking about sharpness or anything else. Just smoothness.

  6. #6

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    No practical difference between the two formats at 10x8 in my darkroom. Not sure if that says more about modern films or my lack of a critical eye.
    Steve.

  7. #7

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    RPC: I haven't compared 120 Portra to 35mm. I have compared Ektar 100 across 645 and 35mm. I have also compared Acros across 645 and 35mm. Acros was wet printed (11x14, Ilford MG Fiber-based), Ektar was scan and inkjet (scanned on my Epson v500 for 120 or Plustek 7400 for 35mm, and Costco did the printing). I don't have the equipment to wet print color. The results were very good in all examples, but it wasn't a direct test. I didn't have my LX and M645 beside each other, taking turns making exposures.

    I shot different subject matter with each roll. I didn't do the prints with the expectation of comparison, so it isn't a scientific test. I'd love to own a Nikon or Minolta scanner that can do 120, but until then I can't do a real comparison. I think it would make for an interesting test -- make everything as equal as possible, then compare.

    I am simply going by what my 35mm negatives have produced --- very good prints. Maybe not up there to 120 quality, but definitely better than my 6MP Nikon D40 DSLR (and I think it produced some good 13x19's).

  8. #8
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    I find that there is a great deal of difference between 35mm and 120 Portra with just a straight enlargement. If the negative is cropped and enlarged, 120 blows away 35mm. Have you ever taken a photograph that you did not plan to crop when you took it, only to discover later that you need to crop it before enlarging?
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by brofkand View Post
    I have prints in sizes ranging from 4x6 to 11x14 from Portra 160 and 400 (scan-and-inkjet) that are awesome. These are from 35mm exposures on my Nikon F100 or Pentax PZ-1p. I also have prints at sizes up to 16x20 in Acros 100 (35mm, wet and scan-and-inkjet prints). They look beautiful. I'd say they rival prints from 4x5 FP4 in terms of sharpness, tonality, grain, etc.

    My question is; are these new films squeezing out medium format? It used to be we needed 120 to get us above 8x10 prints. Now I can get suitable 16x20's out of 35mm film. Obviously 120 is a larger negative, and thus offers larger size prints, but I have never needed to go larger than 16x20. If I wanted more, I'd probably shoot 4x5.

    This thought came to my mind as I was soliciting ideas as to a good setup for film-based wedding photography; everyone suggested medium format. I questioned why to myself, since I can get good prints from 35mm films.

    The question I suppose is this: is medium format still relevant? When we have 35mm films that can comfortably provide 16x20 prints, why do I need a Hasselblad or Pentax 67 outfit? I think LF still has a very noble purpose; the ability for movements is one that cannot be understated. But I'm unaware of any medium format cameras that provide movements (other than tilt/shift lenses). Why shoot it?

    This is just food for thought; I love my Mamiya m645 as much as I love my LX. I just think it could make an interesting discussion.
    Hi, brofkand. I don't think MF can be equalled by 35mm. MF has a larger imaging area and needs longer lenses than those for 35mm for specific purposes; a 'wide' on 35mm is anything below 40mm whereas a 'wide' for MF is normally below 70mm. A 'standard' on 35mm is around 50mm; on MF it's around 70mm - 85mm. So it's easier on 120 at the same f-stop as 35mm to obtain shallow depth of field, so MF images generally look different to those from 35mm.

    Although your 16" x 20" prints from 35mm look good, if you compare them with prints the same size from 120 negs (excluding those shot on 'toy' cameras), because you're enlarging less, you'll see less grain, smoother tones and more detail. Modern films may have brought 35mm to a point that you can obtain huge print sizes, but think of the same film used in 120 cameras.

    MF cameras are generally (but not universally) larger and heavier than 35mm cameras, so are used differently. You don't see many Hassies at football games. Some Hasselblad cameras offer lens movements.

    Don't get me wrong, 35mm is a great and very capable format format, but MF is still a very relevant format. There's a cosmetic reason to shoot MF at weddings too - a Hassie or Penatx 67 on a tripod looks so much more 'professional' to mundanes than a hand-held 35mm SLR or DSLR, which male wedding guests fit with telezooms and sling around their necks like jewellery. The ladies normally use compacts or their telephones!

    Cheers,
    kevs
    testing...

  10. #10
    BrendanCarlson's Avatar
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    +1 what kevs said. The 120 film with have finer grain because you have a larger negative, 35 is very small so as you enlarge the grain more as you enlarge the image.

    At any rate I shoot 35mm for street because I am perfectly fine with the noise being larger, and medium format for fashion/jobs where I want a cleaner look.

    Btw, 35mm cross processed rocks for street where you use color instead of B&W. I just shot a roll of Sensia in chinatown and am about to cross process it.
    Everybody has a photographic memory, some just don't have film.
    My Website and Gallery is at www.bcarlsonmedia.com
    My Twitter is @brendancarlson

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