20 Mar 2008
My preferred format was 35mm mainly because it is compact. I still use it for the longer hikes that I take for landscape work. With that said I have found myself taking the 4x5 out into the field, and away from the car, to do landscape work. I have found myself somewhat "addicted" to the large negative. A 35mm negative now looks so small. It is the control of the image (mainly movements) that I like about LF. It as allowed me to "expand my wings" and to do things not possible with a fixed back camera. Consequently, the Hasselblad has not seen much film recently. The Hasselbald has always been a struggle for me because I am used to seeing the world in a rectangular viewfinder/ground glass, and the square format really confuses me.
I agree with mooseontheloose in that every format has advantages and disadvantages. These will very depending on the subject that you are trying to photograph.
Like others, I use and enjoy a variety of formats, depending on the situation. I prefer to work with larger negatives (to a point), because of ease of handling and processing. But for travel and photographing people in various settings away from home, 35mm works the best for me. I do not think the format per se limits the quality. My limitations have more to do with time, patience, and getting to know my subject(s).
In my retirement quest to learn more about photography I had just moved up from 35mm to 6x7cm four years ago. Lois Conner came to the University of Akron to lecture on her China trips, critique the Advanced Photography classes, and do a platinum workshop. I fell in love. Along the way I learned that I also liked 8x10 enlarged to 20x24. I have stayed with silver rather than platinum. My real love is 7x17 contact prints. The detail in these plus the w-i-d-e format really excite me. I would like to try 12x20, but at 68 I feel it is simply larger and heavier than I can handle.
My photography life story:
I shot 35mm for a few years without taking it too seriously. I decided I wanted to step up my game and started taking some photo classes at the local community college. After a few semesters, I realized that as my technique and artistic maturity grew I was still unhappy with the quality of my 35mm prints and got a Kiev 88 and then a Bronica GS-1. It was a big shock to see how great prints could be...
A few years in that mode and then I started to realize that there could be a solution to the DOF issues I have been encountering in my MF landscapes. That has brought me to trying out 4x5 with a cheap Burke and James. I'm still seeing how I like it.
As far as what I shoot mostly these days, it's usually the Bronica (6x7) for anything that doesn't involve people.
Like many, 35mm was my only format fo many years (I can still remember when I owned only one camera).
After a brief flirtation with that other technology, I started buying old cameras e.g. 6x6 Rolleicord and other TLRs, Bronica ETRS 6x4.5, then a Mamiya RB67 6x7.
Then I realised that I could build a 5x4" camera - so I did.
I have not got any larger than this yet but I'm sure I will one day.
So I don't really have a format of choice but I do go through phases of prefering various formats.
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
I've shot everything from 35mm to 8x10 (I have 11x14, just haven't used it yet). Like Walt (Pinholemaster), it's very much the right tool for the image, but the one I use the most is my 5x7 studio camera. It's a big honking beast of a machine, and it takes up tons of space in my studio, but it is the best tool for what I want to do, and it suits my way of working and seeing (I'm so used to working with it that I don't even think about the fact that the image is upside down and backwards on the ground glass anymore - a 35mm slr feels strange now, actually, because the image is upright and right-way round).
I started with 35 mm because I could do what I wanted to, at the time, within my tiny budget with it but not with half-frame 35 mm or 6x6. At the time a Pen FT and a Hasselblad were the alternatives. I needed an SLR to shoot moving subjects closeup. The Pen FT is lovely but in some ways a sick joke; the 'blad was far out of range.
Since the early '90s I've drifted towards 2x3 because I can do somethings better with 2x3 than with 35 mm, but continue to use 35 mm where it wins. I'm not seriously contemplating moving up in format again -- the next step is probably 5x7 -- because 2x3 is good enough at what I use it for and because of the costs. The costs are measured in $ and aching backs.
I guess I'm unusual in having *started* with MF as a kid. My dad managed a camera shop, and when I was about 9 or 10, he picked up a used Rolleiflex for himself and a 'cord for me, reasoning that if I was actually interested I should learn on a simple but good-quality camera where everything was manual.
So either I like the 6x6 format because it's what I grew up using, or he happened to hit on a format that really worked for me. That Rolleicord is still probably the camera I use the most, although since I discovered old folders, they've been getting quite a workout because of the convenience factor. (You can't really put a Rolleicord in your pocket.)
I 've been through most formats up to 4x5 or 5x4 in England :-) That said, I have really found my comfort zone with the square format. I feel that it gives me the best flexibility, and gives me the quality I strive for. It has taken me a long journey and a ton of dough invested to figure this out though. I do still use the 4x5, but it has been getting less use lately. I believe it has a place in my tool shed so to speak, and although a larger format may be nice (say an 8x10) I doubt I will be move in that direction. My current equipment inventory is consistent, and I am completely comfortable using the two medium format and one large format systems I have. Some folks are always looking for the next best gadget and gizmo or silver bullet. I fell into that category during my early photgraphic journey, but not anymore. It was the Fay Godwin workshop I had the priviledge of attending back in 1992 that truly changed my outlook on photographic gear. Fay had a very distinct dislike of too many technical details and carrying too much gear around. She said that her best shots were when she was not really thinking about technique and equipment all the time. I firmly believe that if you buy right the first time and bleed once to get good reliable gear, you will be better off. Find a format that suits your method of working and stick with it. Then learn to use your equipment in a consistent way to get results. Experience eventually tells you what works and what does not. I have since streamlined the films, processing, and papers I use as well. All with the intent to make like simple and keep consistent. Too many variables is a big hindrance and a drain on creativity to me anymore. .02
I shoot 645. I chose this over 35mm because I didn't feel I was getting enough from my smaller negatives. The images weren't any worse, as a matter of fact, when I first got the M amiya, my images were a bit on the lackluster side. Because until I got serious with it, it was a novelty camera to my, a frivolous purchase. But now that I use it exclusively, not much more if any 35, I feel much happier with my negatives, which I am now processing myself. As to 645 among MF formats, this was the one I could afford. I had an older Wirgin 6x6 folder that I made some great images with, but it is now a 6x6 pinhole that I am toying around with.
No, I love my M645j's (I said j's). And right now, I wouldn't trade them for the world. Unless Stephanie wants to buy one dirt cheap. Then we'll see.
"Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti