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1. Perhaps it makes more sense to simply compare strengths instead of trying to simply finding what is best.

Let's talk about depth of field. With a medium format camera, your normal focal length is about 75-80mm (645 and 6x6). With 35mm it's 50mm. Depth of field is determined by the size of your aperture, so if you want the same depth of field in your prints from both formats, you have to stop down the medium format lens farther than the 35mm. For example, I like using a 25mm aperture for portraits. With a 50mm lens that means I have to use an f/2 aperture. 50/2 = 25. With an 80mm lens I have to use f/3.2 to get the same depth of field.

If you then add to that a wish to use both cameras in a similar fashion, with similar shutter speeds - at the same depth of field apertures, you have to use a faster film in the medium format camera. That is the law of mathematics surrounding this situation.
I hand hold my cameras a lot, so if I wanted to really take advantage of 35mm compared to medium format, and I wanted to shoot all pictures with the same shutter speed, and with the same depth of field, I would have to use something like ISO 100 in the 35mm camera and ISO 320 in the MF camera.

This, to me, is truly comparing apples to apples, and 35mm starts to eat away at some of the advantages you have with medium format. Now, if you are able to 'give up' some shutter speed, or some depth of field, you can obviously use the same film with your medium format camera, but that could handicap you in certain moments, or if you like to hand hold your camera a lot or your subject isn't still.

If I use Delta 100 film in the 35mm and shoot at f/2 and 1/250th second, and Tri-X in the medium format and shoot at f/3.5 and 1/250th second, recording the same scene, technically I get a very similar quality from both formats.

But for the most part I really enjoy grain, so I shoot Tri-X in both formats and just busy myself concentrating on the subject matter, and making good prints. The little bit of extra grain and so on doesn't bother me in the least, even in big prints. I just don't think it's a make/break of a great print. If you ever stop by a museum and look in the photography department, you will find pictures made from all sorts of cameras. Some use large format, others use 35mm, and anything in between and beyond - and you know what, all of them are equally valuable, appreciated, and respected.

2. ## Advantages of MF over 35mm

Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Perhaps it makes more sense to simply compare strengths instead of trying to simply finding what is best.
Exactly! Medium format is much better than 35mm, except when it isn't. It's as silly an argument as to which film is better, Efke 25 or HP5+?

3. Depending on your way of thinking, the "extra" depth of field you get in 35mm is either a benefit or a handicap. I tend to like shallower depth of field, so I don't like getting stuck shooting at f11-f22 in bright daylight because my film is so fast (relatively speaking) that I can't open up further. This is somewhat less of an issue with 35mm as my 35mm cameras all have blindingly fast shutter speeds (1/6000- 1/8000 top speed). But sometimes shooting with shutter speeds that fast you have other unintended consequences of motion frozen that you don't want to be frozen. It's all a series of trade-offs. My default, go-to camera of late is my Rolleiflex. But I have Contax 35mm SLR and rangefinder cameras, and then there are all the large format cameras when speed of operation is not an issue. It really comes down to "why use a hammer when you need a screwdriver" - pick the tool for the task, don't try to make the task fit the tool.

4. Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera
Depending on your way of thinking, the "extra" depth of field you get in 35mm is either a benefit or a handicap. I tend to like shallower depth of field, so I don't like getting stuck shooting at f11-f22 in bright daylight because my film is so fast (relatively speaking) that I can't open up further. This is somewhat less of an issue with 35mm as my 35mm cameras all have blindingly fast shutter speeds (1/6000- 1/8000 top speed). But sometimes shooting with shutter speeds that fast you have other unintended consequences of motion frozen that you don't want to be frozen. It's all a series of trade-offs. My default, go-to camera of late is my Rolleiflex. But I have Contax 35mm SLR and rangefinder cameras, and then there are all the large format cameras when speed of operation is not an issue. It really comes down to "why use a hammer when you need a screwdriver" - pick the tool for the task, don't try to make the task fit the tool.
I think you're emphasizing my point. But there is a really slick invention called neutral density filters.

This is why I brought up the 'issue' of shutter speed and depth of field, because it evens the playing field. If we look at lenses for large format cameras, say a 210mm lens for a 4x5, or a 300mm lens for a 5x7. Again, looking at aperture size, the 210mm needs to be shot at f/8 and the 300mm lens at roughly at f/11 to get the same depth of field as a 50mm lens at f/2. This starts to make sense, because those apertures are fairly close to wide open in all formats, and it speaks to the versatility of the medium when we start to look at shutter speeds. With a large format camera, like an 8x10, at f/11 you start to run out of film speed to get decent shutter speeds unless you use artificial lighting, and you're limited to a static scene shooting scenario all of a sudden in order to control the lighting.

As you say, one doesn't really use a large format camera like you do a 35mm one. But I still wanted to try to highlight some of the dynamics behind shooting, things that to me mean a lot more than having slightly better print quality, like depth of field, shutter speed preference, and so on. To me those factors play a much bigger role in the final print than other parameters such as grain. So, in the end, for me, the choice of camera is one I make based on how well I know the camera, how agile I can be with it, and whether I can get the shot or not. Print quality is never​ a consideration, because I know that it's good enough no matter what camera I pick, 35mm or 5x7.

5. Thomas - I think we agree absolutely, we're just stating it slightly differently. The only downside to using ND filters is unless you're shooting with a TLR or rangefinder, you have to focus and compose through them, which largely defeats the purpose of having a nice fast lens. I just wish they still made Ektar 25 for daylight shooting.

6. I shoot both 35mm and medium format and several advantages of medium format for me is that I think I can make a better larger print from MF in terms of what I like, or at least it is easier for me to make a larger MF print. There are times when I find the shorter rolls of MF film to be an advantage. There are also times when I really like the square negative from a 6 x 6.

Having said that, there are times when I just want to use a certain camera. Sometimes it's a 35mm camera, and sometimes it's a MF camera. Right now I have a growing desire to take out my dad's old Mamiya Super 23 with the 6 x 9 back. It's not that it is necessarily better or has advantages over another camera, but it's what I want to use again soon because it is fun and I'm in the mood to use it.

Dave

7. Originally Posted by StoneNYC
... but clients comment on how sharp xxxx is and how unsharp xxxx...
Sharpness between one print and another print is not merely a function of the source, but also of the making of the print itself. Was an unsharp mask used? There's a couple of masking systems currently available for LF.
Contrast can also affect the perception of sharpness. Also, if the scene itself is soft and fuzzy, like a white kitten amidst down feathers in a snowstorm and photographed with an Imagon wide open, then you'll have a soft result, no matter what you do. Will the customer think that the photograph is "out of focus?" I remember a book in which the author wrote about sending prospective clients to look at his competitor's display photographs down the hall. He suggested to them that the image was blurry, and of course then they perceived it as blurry. But I can't help wonder if the photograph, from a MF camera, was made with a Zeiss Softar filter or an Imagon.

As for the topic of 35mm vs MF, it just depends on what you want to do. I also use a Pen-F half-frame camera, and I like using it with 400 speed film. (Ilford Universal was my favorite with it.) Sharp lens, grain as big as pancakes. Both sharp and soft at the same time. I love it. At the other end of the scale I have 8x10. My user icon is from a 2mm square, Wollensak 6-1/4", Ilford Delta 100, of clouds reflected in an old window. Yep, a Minox negative is larger than that.

Is MF slower than 35mm? Depends on the application, doesn't it? No MF system has a 10+ frames/sec rate. On the other hand, I've never seen MF slow down a street or fasion photographer.

"Horses for courses," as the saying goes.

8. Thomas clearly gets amazing results from 35mm and prefers it. That's fine, of course.

Me, I find when I shoot 35mm over it's for very different reasons.

1) Size, weight, and quick handling of the cameras. Those who shoot with autofocus can also add fast (and affordable) autofocus. At one time there was also an advantage in exposure automation but my M645 Pro with the AE prism has aperture priority AE and selection of average, spot, or weighted av-spot. Of course the later autofocus 35mm cameras also had/have some incredibly sophisticated matrix metering, and if that's available in MF I'm not aware of it (probably because it's still prohibitively expensive anyway.) So some can add an automation advantage but my particular 35mm cameras don't really have that over my particular MF cameras, or at least the more advanced one.

I'm not even sure about "quick handling" as the 645 Pro handles great with the winder grip. But it sure isn't my Pentax MX around my neck. The MX practically disappears, especially with the 50mm lens or a prime wide angle attached. The 645 feels more like a brick on a strap, or maybe an albatross.

2. Size, speed and versatility of the lenses. MF zooms are less common and often big and heavy. Two of my three 645 lenses are f/2.8, the other, the 150mm, is f/3.5. The last is comparable to my 70-210 35mm zoom and the other two primes are comparable to my 28-105 zoom. None are within a stop of my 50mm f/1.7 and that lens, fine as it is, cost a pittance, something like \$35 I think. I can and probably will get an 80mm 1.9 for the 645 but that costs hundreds for a decent one and will still be slower than the 50mm 1.4 or 1.2 I could get for comparable money. (Ok,

3. Shooting slides for projection. Once I get a MF projector that will change, though.

In earlier days I'd have added "film type availability" but with the demise of first Kodachrome and now TMZ that's no longer true. There's not a single film in 35mm that I use that I can't get in 120.

None of these are about "quality" except in the sense that a properly exposed low light shot in 35mm will be better than one you can't expose properly on any other size.

I prefer MF when it's workable, but 35mm does some things that MF can't or can't do as well or as easily or inexpensively. For me, that makes the quality trade off worth it, but I certainly do consider it a quality trade off. YMMV of course.

9. If it weren't for Thomas Bertilsson, I would say 35mm is fine for beginners, but serious photographers should use larger format.

But Thomas makes me question my belief in the superiority of larger formats over 35mm.

I really believe you can get close to 4x5 quality from 35mm using slow film, tripod and good exposure and development technique. I have done it all along. Interestingly, I have only really done it with traditional grain films such as Panatomic-X.

Now if I used a slow 35mm T-Grain film, I might come close to the look I get with 4x5 TMY-2. I don't know, maybe a future project to experiment with different film.

In terms of the softness that made me leave 35mm, this might be simply traditional grain vs. T-Grain. In the gallery, Little Sur, Panatomic-X, I swear I can see individual blades of dichondra on the far bank. I don't need more detail. I don't need more resolution than that. But I want sharper.

I have been enjoying the sharpness of 4x5 TMY-2 and the resolution I get on 11x14 prints from it. But thanks to Thomas, I no longer go around saying I shoot 4x5 because it's better. I'm satisfied to say that I just enjoy shooting 4x5 these days.

Serious photographers can use any format.

Maybe I shouldn't be so serious.

10. It may be easy to take good photographs when not carrying too many variables in the head. If that photo speaks itself, then format/film will not play any bigger role anymore. Eg., 35mm shooters. HCB et al.

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