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  1. #1

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    I want a larger negative. Does anyone care to comment?

    This started out as me simply listing my perceived pro’s and con’s to limit my options as objectively as possible. But it grew...
    In the event anyone can be bothered reading through it, I am interested in constructive criticism of my thinking. Having no experience with Medium Format, are my assumptions correct?

    Some background: I’m a weekend untalented amateur; 3 years ago I sulked at the failure of my most recent whiz-bang wonder and shot some film on my 35mm ‘70’s RF and 80’s SLR. I discovered that firstly, my best results were at least as good with film and secondly I really knew much less about photography than I thought I did. So I embarked upon a learning path that has now expanded to include a modest B&W darkroom (at a total cost to date of less than ½ a whiz-bang replacement! Aside from consumables of course). If I’ve obtained no other benefit, at least I’m away from my monitor when pursuing this branch of photography.

    My primary constraint is of course, talent/knowledge/experience which is constantly evolving (maybe even improving...). One of the potential avenues of improvement is equipment change.

    Quite a bit of research leads me to believe that the improvement I’m likely to obtain though equipment ‘upgrade’ will be modest, but the cost may also be modest. (say, the other ½ of the whiz-bang replacement cost, around $AU750)

    This has led me via loads of internet research (including apug archives) towards an interest in a larger negative. I’d like some opinions on my assumptions (below) of benefits I’m likely to obtain.

    I’m constrained to max negative 6x6 and max enlargement 12x16 by my equipment. I could possibly increase enlargement to 16x20 for modest outlay, but I will need to see some improvements in my results before taking that step. All my photography is natural light (aside from family snapshots of course).

    I’m considering 6x4.5/6x6 MF with a preference for 6x6 on the basis that I can crop down.

    My expected (hoped for?) pro’s in no particular order are:
    • Increased tonal range. (is this real, or does it really come from skill/ability/exposure selection?)
    • Ability to crop more heavily for given enlargement size. (To partially compensate for poor composition and/or limited lens choices, may end up as a con?)
    • Sharper prints at 8x10 and 12x16. (likely, given my small enlargement capability, and based on my experience of significant improvement in this area with better exposure/development/film selection as I learn more, this will be not as much improvement as I imagine. opinions please?)
    • Shorter rolls giving me (say) 1 roll per ‘project’ and darkroom session.
    • Possible ability to change film mid session (dependant on equipment selection, and might be a con in regard of my learning curve anyway)
    • Much bigger contact prints/negatives and consequent easing of assessment. (this might be the biggest benefit?)
    • Lesser impact of unnoticed dust while enlarging.
    • Easier negative handling in the darkroom.
    • Potential for use of higher speed films for a given enlargement size. (likely not relevant given my small enlargement capability)
    • Manual functions (for equipment in my price range) encouraging slower/more thought about exposure and composition.
    • Waist Level finder (dependant on equipment selection)

    My perceived cons:
    • Cost
    • Risk of premature failure of 2nd hand equipment. (there are options for mitigating this of course)
    • Substantially reduced depth of field options.
    • Reduced max shutter speeds (though I suspect I’ll hardly notice)
    • Possibly more difficult camera handling in some situations (depending on equipment choice and mitigated by retaining my 35mm kit)
    • Increased reliance on tripod (this could actually be a pro?)
    • Requirement for further investment on stuff I’ve overlooked (eg, lightmeter once I get sick of using my SLR’s metering, filters ins different sizes, ever more lenses/backs/finders etc, etc)
    • Reduced ability to carry the thing in my motorcycle tankbag (dependant on equipment selection).
    • Reduced ability to ‘take a beating’/more repairs from carrying it on my motorcycle on rough roads.
    • And, well, cost again.

    If my assumptions are correct (or at least fairly close) and bearing in mind my budget, I’m attracted to 2 contrasting options:
    1. I think the best compromise will be a Mamiya 645 super/pro, with std lens and WLF plus a meter (Sekonic L-508?) and an adaptor for my cokin P filters if I can fit all that into my budget. Risk is around me damaging it while carrying it and likelihood of needing a major service.
    2. But, tougher and more attractive (to me) is: An Agfa Super Isolette (from Mr Kreckel at certo6, assuming he is able to find one for me?), a hood and filters to suit and the same meter. Again assuming I’m able to fit all this into my budget. I think this option mitigates the risks of service and me damaging it better, but is much more limited as a photography tool as my skill & interests evolve.

    For those with the patience for yet another camera thread and thoughts to share, thank you.

    Matt.

  2. #2
    L Gebhardt's Avatar
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    Matt, I'm running short on time, so I'll be brief. I think your pros and cons are pretty much right on. I also think you are the only one who can answer if they are balanced in favor of you getting a medium format camera, and what that camera might be.

    I can say for my self that I have owned a Mamiya Pro TL (just sold it, still have some lenses). It just wasn't quite right for me. I like the Hasselblad better, so I bought one. I have also owned an RZ67, and it wasn't right for me either. Weighed more than my 4x5 setup, and I like to backpack with the camera. I also owned a Super Isolette years ago and loved the thing. Still don't know why I sold it. Probably to fund the RZ - dumb move. So when I found one for cheap in excellent condition on eBay I bought it again. It is a great travel camera, and probably a good intro to medium format.

    I don't know what you shoot, how you like to shoot. So it could be that 35mm would be better, or maybe you should get a 4x5. However I do know that if i was trying to transport a camera on a motorcycle I would want something small and tough. The Super Isolette could be that. I'm not sure the Pro TL would be good.

    Also, in my experience a waist level finder works much better on a 6x6 camera instead of a 6x4.5 because of the difficulty in rotating the camera.

  3. #3

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    Some people think that 6x4.5 doesn't offer a big enough advantage over 35mm. It is larger, but if you want a really large negative, then you should consider 6x9. However, the only available waist-level finders with most of these are the older folding cameras with a brilliant finder, which aren't that accurate.

    But photography has always been about compromise, so you end up prioritizing as you go along.

  4. #4
    keithwms's Avatar
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    You want a bigger neg? Shoot color slide in a smaller format and enlarge it to b&w tmax in a larger format

    The pro is a great body system, very modular and lots of fun. Quite durable. Consider also the rb67. Similar cost and it won't be hard for you to print 6x7 negs. And it is basically indestructible.

    Not familiar with the isolette.

    There is only one sure-fire way to find out what's best for you: loan some cameras from buddies on APUG and give them a go. Or do what I did and try stuff out from KEH; they have a great return policy.

    Should it entertain you at all, I have a few stray blog thoughts about format size and tonality etc. : http://www.apug.org/forums/blogs/kei...-size-all.html
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

    [APUG Portfolio] [APUG Blog] [Website]

  5. #5
    Klainmeister's Avatar
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    You are spot on with advantages/disadvantages for sure. You could probably pick up a TLR, Yaschica or something, for about 150AU that'll give you a WLF, 6x6 negative, and a cheap way to figure out whether or not MF is something for you.

    One thing I must say: some cameras work for people and others dont. I just got back from a trip where I used 4 different cameras and some felt right while others did not, so my images subsequently showed that. My most expensive piece may have had critically better negatives, but for image quality, I think the little Nkion FE gave the best results. Go figure. That part is so immeasurable, I think I would try and play around with systems until you find what works for you, and thus your images will improve more greatly than any fancy equipment upgrade.
    K.S. Klain

  6. #6

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    You *will* notice the tonality differences printing at 12x16 or less. Oh boy, will you.

    Don't get too hung up on the exact camera. A Yashica-Mat will show you all you need to know, many other cameras. A Kodak Brownie will show you things in tonality and grain. Once you work with any medium format negatives a bit you'll be able to tell if the results are worth it for you. And many of the cameras are quite easy to sell for about what you paid.

  7. #7
    cjbecker's Avatar
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    Then you will want to move up to 4x5 then 8x10. haha

    Like others said, your pros and cons are pretty good. Just depends if the pros out weigh the cons.

    I shoot large format portraits most of the time now because I prefer the tonal separation and just the overall image. Also its much nicer working with in the darkroom.

  8. #8

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    Short answer: I carry a Pentax 645N most days. I enjoy it, and there's a quality difference over 35mm. 6x9 would be better, but I like the ease and functionality of this setup...for now. I use 35mm when I'm printing small or need to have an ultra-small rig with me. It's a great camera for me. If you're thinking of going to medium format, then do it.

  9. #9
    winger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sundowner View Post
    Short answer: I carry a Pentax 645N most days. I enjoy it, and there's a quality difference over 35mm. 6x9 would be better, but I like the ease and functionality of this setup...for now. I use 35mm when I'm printing small or need to have an ultra-small rig with me. It's a great camera for me. If you're thinking of going to medium format, then do it.
    I also have a 645N and there is a noticeable difference from 35mm. Camera-wise, the 645N is like a 35mm on steroids. I do use a tripod in more situations, but I see it as a plus because I should have used one more when shooting mainly 35mm. I have an Isolette, a Zeiss folder (6x9), and a Hasselblad. The P645N is still usually my go-to of those because it's been very dependable for me. You should try and handle some different ones and even a roll in each before completely deciding. Or just keep adding to the pile and then sort it out and get rid of the ones that don't work for you.
    MF is a gateway format. I now have a couple of MF and three 4x5s. I keep thinking fondly of doing contacts of 5x7 or 8x10.

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    I always like to help out someone named Matt .

    I think that your concern about the condition or durability of most medium format equipment may be a bit unnecessary.

    I've been using a Mamiya C330 and a few lenses for more than 30 years, and I think I have had to replace one errant screw. In addition, I had them CLA'd at about 25 years in, because it seemed a good idea.

    My Mamiya 645 Supers and Pro have not needed any service since I bought them - although the Supers are now sold.

    As you have a darkroom, I would suggest trying a lower cost option (a TLR or a 645 Super with a single lens). You should be able to tell fairly quickly whether you like using them. If not, you will likely be able to get most of your money back upon resale.

    All your listed pros and cons are useful and relevant, but actually shooting a few rolls may very well tell you more.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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