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  1. #1
    Truzi's Avatar
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    Problems using MF SLR

    Can someone tell me how to take pictures?

    I'm having problems using my "new" meduim format SLR. I'm almost certain the problem lies with me, not the equipment. The issues I mention are diminishing the more I use the camera, but it's time I asked for advice. I'm running out of expired film so need to speed-up my learning curve.
    Yes, I have also used fresh film, and my problems (when present) are the same.

    I'm using a Bronica GS-1 purchased off ebay. AE finder, 100mm lens, and a handful of backs. My main camera is a 35mm Sears KS-2 (rebranded Ricoh XR-7). I'm having difficulty switching between the Sears and Bronica.
    If I spend an inordinate amount of time to take one picture using a tripod there are no problems. I am sure I'm not accounting for the differences between the format size, lens size, and quality of the cameras.

    Part of the problem is I traditionally take snapshots. I tend to use small apertures to bring everything in focus, aperture priority to let the camera think for me, and wide-angle lenses to get a wide field of view (which I know is not how I'm "supposed" to use them). I'm sure I'm not using the Sears "correctly," but it doesn't seem to matter with snapshots. Yep - 80% of the time I pretend my 35mm is a point-and-shoot. If I use the Bronica this way I don't have many problems.

    As I try to improve my photography, the Bronica is giving me issues and the Sears is not; my 35mm photos improve and MF degrade.

    When comparing the cameras, I use the 50mm lens on the Sears. Each camera's focusing screen has both split-screen and micro-prism ring.

    Focus:
    I'm having difficulty focusing on what I want at wide open aperture - the photos have shown a focus other than I thought. When present, the error is in different directions (before or behind) on different photos, with the subject the same distance, so I think it is me and not the camera/lens. If I try hard enough I can get what I want - but it is a lot of work.
    On my 35mm I usually ignore the micro-prism ring and focus with the split-screen, which is at a diagonal. Typically, I'll find a straight line to use it on even if it is not exactly at the distance I want to focus. This is usually fine even at f2.8.
    The Bronica's focusing screen does not seem as distinct. Also, the split-screen is horizontal, which I find a bit more difficult on any camera I've used. If I use it as I do on the Sears, I can have problems at wide apertures.
    When I use the micro-prism ring I generally have fewer issues, but it is thinner than the 35mm and not nearly as easy to see.
    Would a different screen (or optic) make a difference? Is it common practice to stop-down when hand-holding one of these cameras?

    Metering:
    Again, I don't have to think much to use my 35mm. The Bronica, on the other hand, seems to have much more "accurate" metering. It is fine in consistent light, but in mixed situations (e.g. dappled sunlight under trees) I can have problems that my 35mm does not have. If I manually set the camera to what the AE prism states, or use the AE lock function (or even an hand-held meter), I'm fine. If I leave it on automatic I sometimes have problems. In Theory I think I know the problem, in Practice I need help/advice.

    Although I don't consider the camera heavy, when hand-held the weight does seem to make a difference when trying to be still. I think this may be part of my problem.
    I have, though, managed to squeeze off some 1/4-second exposures in a forest that are acceptable to me in a 4x6 print.

    Disclaimer: I know what is acceptable to me may not be, and is likely not, acceptable to the more experienced and advanced photographers on APUG. So think of it in relativistic terms; improvement rather than perfection.
    Truzi

  2. #2
    lxdude's Avatar
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    For my 35's I prefer an all-matte screen, but for my ETRSi I much prefer the matte screen with microprism spot. The spot is big enough to be very useful. I imagine you can find the same for the GS-1.
    I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
    When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.

  3. #3
    clayne's Avatar
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    It's possible, but pretty unlikely, that the film plane is out of focus compared to what the mirrored+prismed image shows through the viewfinder. That being said, remember that MF has an inherently shallower depth of field for the same aperture/focal length (not equivalent focal length, but lens FL) compared to 35mm.
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  4. #4

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    What shutter speeds are you typically using?
    You say when you use a tripod all is OK but sometimes have trouble holding the camera still and occasionally use 1/4 second.

  5. #5

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    Truzi, your real problem is that you're crippled and can't function without crutches.

    You might want to spend some time learning how to think like a photographer about the mechanics of obtaining a well-exposed sharp image. The best guide for beginners that I'm acquainted with is W. A. Blaker's book Field Photography. Long out of print, but you should be able to buy a used copy via abebooks.com, alibris.com, amazon.com, ...

    I used to give copies of Field Photography to friends who were floundering as you are.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Truzi View Post
    Can someone tell me how to take pictures?
    Well, when a photon and a silver halide love each other very much... :-)

    It seems like you have several different concerns tangling with one another, which makes it hard to tell what's causing what. Leaving aside any possible equipment failures, it seems like there are three completely separate problems:
    - You haven't gotten the hang of focusing with the Bronica's screen;
    - You're shooting at some very slow shutter speeds and getting camera shake;
    - The Bronica's meter is too responsive for the way you use AE.

    I think you can address the third by simply not using AE; it's kind of a crutch anyway and makes it very hard to learn about exposure. A few rolls shot on sunny-16 principles will teach you more than a few hundred shot with AE!

    As to the second, I don't think anyone can handhold a camera that size at 1/4 with any consistency! 1/125 or 1/250 will serve you better. That may mean opening up or using faster film, but the large negative means the tradeoff between speed and grain is less important than in 35mm.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  7. #7
    polyglot's Avatar
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    Like ntenny says. Besides, an MF SLR is NOT a P&S, it's a machine designed to be used with anticipation and careful composition. It doesn't do snapshots.

    Don't use it on a tripod for any speed slower than the inverse of the focal length, preferably 1/125 even for shorter lenses. Use mirror pre-fire (lockup) and a cable release on the tripod, no shortcuts.

    If you're in dappled light, you will definitely get issues with spot metering and that's telling you that will probably have issues with fitting the dynamic range of the image into a print. You either need to (assuming negatives) meter for the shadows or do some averaging metering with compensation. It sounds like you need to think a lot more about metering rather than just following the reading from the camera. Note that the meter reading tells you how much light is returned from some part of the scene and it will generally NOT be the exposure that you want.

    Yes, focusing an MF SLR is hard work and takes practise. It's far less forgiving than with a slow lens on 35mm. Don't even get the GS1 out until you have pre-visualised the photo that you want to make.

  8. #8
    Truzi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses, they are all helpful. I knew this would be a learning experience and am quite enjoying it. My 35mm photos are also benefiting.
    Typically, I learn by purposely making exaggerated mistakes (to see what they are like) and get more control as the pendulum swings less each time.
    These particular mistakes aren't on purpose, though, and it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, so I'm a bit rusty.

    Quote Originally Posted by clayne View Post
    ...remember that MF has an inherently shallower depth of field for the same aperture/focal length (not equivalent focal length, but lens FL) compared to 35mm.
    This is actually what has spurred me to get better in general. The camera arrived on a very overcast day and I just had to test it, and thus had to use the lens wide-open. It was one of those "I took this picture?" moments, so I decided my photos don't have to be flat and boring.
    For focusing, at first I though that a slight change of position would be less important on a larger negative, but then realized the size of the lens is more important in this case (simple physics, so I should have known better).

    Quote Originally Posted by mwdake View Post
    What shutter speeds are you typically using?
    You say when you use a tripod all is OK but sometimes have trouble holding the camera still and occasionally use 1/4 second.
    I forget exactly, but they were fairly slow speeds on overcast days or in a forest when I encountered these issues. I can identify my motion blur in the photos, but the point of focus was confusing me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fromm View Post
    Truzi, your real problem is that you're crippled and can't function without crutches.
    I wanted to make a clever response, but can't find a smart-phone app for that
    Seriously, though, you're right. I do have some rudimentary knowledge, but unfortunately I still leave it to the camera most of the time. If I'm doing something specific that I actually have to think about, I do okay (by my standards).

    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    It seems like you have several different concerns tangling with one another, which makes it hard to tell what's causing what. Leaving aside any possible equipment failures, it seems like there are three completely separate problems:
    - You haven't gotten the hang of focusing with the Bronica's screen;
    - You're shooting at some very slow shutter speeds and getting camera shake;
    - The Bronica's meter is too responsive for the way you use AE.
    I try not to shoot less than 1/60th in 35mm, faster if possible. I only did 1/8th and 1/4th in the forest while muttering something nasty about myself for being stupid enough to forget my tripod. I didn't care enough to go back and get it because I'm still testing and getting a feel for it, and actually the hike was the object, not the pictures. I had my 35mm for non-testing photos.

    The screen is difficult. I'm getting better, but wonder if a different screen might help. The micro-prism seems to work best for me on this camera, but it's so hard to see, relatively speaking.
    I think I'm not holding still enough. Also, back to the lens DOF, I think simply shifting my position after focus can make a difference even if it's only an inch or two.
    I've never used a good coupled meter before - this one is really throwing me.
    I've only used Sunny 16 a few times, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Back to the crutch thing, though, this was only with meterless cameras. (Yes, I was too lazy to pull out my hand-held meter.)

    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    If you're in dappled light, you will definitely get issues with spot metering and that's telling you that will probably have issues with fitting the dynamic range of the image into a print. You either need to (assuming negatives) meter for the shadows or do some averaging metering with compensation. It sounds like you need to think a lot more about metering rather than just following the reading from the camera. Note that the meter reading tells you how much light is returned from some part of the scene and it will generally NOT be the exposure that you want.

    Yes, focusing an MF SLR is hard work and takes practise. It's far less forgiving than with a slow lens on 35mm. Don't even get the GS1 out until you have pre-visualised the photo that you want to make.
    When I used the AE-lock in dappled light and got a good image, I think it was by accident (it was the shadows). Is there an easy way to tell where the "spot" is? I'd like to think in the exact center, but something tells me I'm wrong.

    Unfortunately, I use the settings to make the in-camera meter happy, not to make the image better. (Basically, "line-up the needles" in the 35mm.) This is a large failure on my part with any format, but it is a difficult habit to break. Oddly, I'm very much against this type of thinking with other things.
    This is also my first experience with this kind of metering. I certainly knew about it, but didn't imagine how different it would be from my 35mm.

    I think I will now work backwards thanks to your comments. I'll be very deliberate and methodical until I get the hang of it, and only then do my typical experimenting. It is also nice to get confirmation on some of my suspicions.

    I'll see if I can post some crummy examples.

    I'm not frustrated or complaining, just getting advice. I really like this camera and learning to use it is a lot of fun.
    It does remind me of my "good" classical guitar. I've two, both purchased used. One is a La Patrie and very nice, especially considering it is factory-made and has a bolt-on neck (which you don't do with classical guitars).
    My "good" guitar is of unknown origin; it had been literally smashed over someone's head in a bar fight, and almost completely rebuilt by someone who specialises in classical instrument repair. This was before I acquired it, and although we don't know it's original manufacture, it is for all intents and purposes "hand-made." Quite a superior instrument. I don't consider myself good, but am even "less good" on the better guitar. It really exposed the weaknesses in my technique - things not noticed on the other guitar.
    Truzi

  9. #9
    Truzi's Avatar
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    Never posted pictures to this particular BBS... hope it works as I expect.

    Okay, here are a few bad pictures I took at two different times, processed by the same lab in a Phototherm. They wet-print scans. I've not manipulated the images. I have better examples with comparable distances to the subject, but those are B&W I process myself, and I do not have a scanner.
    These rolls were shot to test the camera and backs for obvious problems such as scratching, frame advance, etc. - mechanical tests - so I did not take notes. They are all hand-held.

    Feel free to critique them aesthetically as well as technically - I'm here to learn.

    Rock (about the size of your head) and over-grown bush next to our driveway.
    Fuji Pro 400H, in-date, very overcast day (got to love Fuji for this). Aperture wide open (f=3.5). Probably 1/30th or 1/60th. This was my first roll.
    Tried to focus on the edge of the rock facing the camera in order to have the lichen in focus. Focus ended up a bit behind that point.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Working hand-pump at a vacation cabin in Hocking Hills, Ohio. Partly sunny day.
    Konica Centuria Pro 400, exp 2009. f=3.5 (maybe 4), probably 1/60th.
    I tried to focus on the pipe for the hand-pump. Instead, the brick just in front of the pipe is in better focus.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Since some argue it is not a color, you do not see a magenta cast in this expired film


    Another in Hocking. Same partly sunny day, but under a full canopy in the forest (no dappling).
    Konica Centuria Pro 400, exp 2009. f=3.5 and either 1/4th or 1/8th.
    I'm not sure what I tried to focus on. Soft, but I like it.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Truzi; 06-16-2013 at 10:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Truzi

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Truzi:

    As you probably have realized, your attachments didn't work.

    Go to the "Advanced" screen, and the Paper Click in the toolbar is the best way to attach and embed a digital image. Play close attention to the file type and size limits.

    As far as the location of the spot, sometimes the manuals indicate that, whereas for some cameras (e.g. Mamiya 645 Pro) they don't.
    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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