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  1. #1

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    Getting the most out of Medium Format??

    This is my first post here. I am a long time 35mm user (Contax N1) and have used digital a couple of years (Olympus E1). Both are good cameras and I have been happy with the results. Except when it comes to landscapes. Despite my best efforts (tripod, slow film, etc.), the results when shooting landscapes are often disappointing. In an effort to improve my landscapes, I have purchased Fuji GSW690III (6x9 rangefinder) and Mamiya 6MF (6X4.5 rangefinder) cameras. I am looking for advice on how to get the most out of using medium format:

    1. Film scanner vs. Flatbed scanner - I cannot spend more than an additional $1,000 on a good scanner and am leaning toward the dedicated film scanner (if I can find one for around $1,000). My question is: do the latest flatbed scanners by Epson & Canon come close to the performance of a mid-level medium format film scanner? The technology on the Minolta Multi Scan Pro is getting a bit old (2002). Is it still good enough for high quality film scanning?

    2. I have an HP7960 printer (8-1/2"X11"), which I plan to keep as a b&w printer. I plan to buy a good used Epson 2200. Is the Epson still considered one of the best printers (quality, life of print, color, etc.)? If not, what would be a better choice?

    3. I know that I will need to upgrade my current computer to handle the file sizes of medium format. I am still using an iMac G3 and am thinking of buying a used Apple G4, with enough memory to handle medium format files. Would I be smarter to buy a new iMac G5 or something else?

    4. Film - I normally use Fuji Astia, but will probably start using Velvia. Good or bad choice? I would prefer to stay with slide film and I am looking for the best quality film for landscapes and scanning purposes.

    Any information or opinions would be much appreciated.
    Last edited by rrobinson54; 03-07-2005 at 12:39 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Add question

  2. #2
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    You probably won't get many positive comments from this group on inkjet printers!

    I use the Mamiya 6mf, but only in 6x6 mode (you can always crop it yourself, why bother with the in-camera mask, it's an unnecessary hassle and gains you nothing). The Mamiya is a *great* camera. You will certainly enjoy it for landscape work. Its weakness is in portrait work, because the lenses don't close focus sufficiently for nice tight portraits. But for street and landscapes it is a great camera, especially if you are going to hike. It is *very* portable.

    Regarding scanning: (APUGers, move along please - there is nothing for you to see here! :-) ) I use the new Canon 9950F. All the images in my gallery were scanned with it. It is very cheap, and for a flatbed, does a great job. It isn't perfect, but once you get dialed in with it you can get solid scans (worthy of web or digiprinting). It does scan through glass, so you sometimes get newton rings, but a rescan usually solves that problem. The supplied software is not the greatest - convenient, but not sufficient for fine art photography. Get VueScan, it is downloadable, has a free trial version, and is about $79 as I recall for a full license. With VueScan, the Canon is a fine scanner for normal use. If you have an image that you just must have a higher quality scan of (either bacause it is just that good, or has density issues the Canon can't burn through), just get that one image drum scanned at a commercial shop. You'll save tons over what you'd have to spend if you bought your own Imacon. OTOH, if you have the cash, an Imacon scanner would be great to have!

    Film: I use Velvia and Provia. They say Provia scans better, but I haven't been able to tell the difference to date. I think it is more a preference regarding how you want to interpret the scene. Velvia is the most saturated, Astia the most neutral. You should probably shoot all three and make a judgement call yourself. They are all fine quality films, and no one will be talking behind your back about your choice regardless...

    Regarding printer choices, you might want to go to photo.net to ask. This group of folks would be happy to talk with you about enlargers, contact printing, alternative processes, etc., but does not discuss digital printing. This is by thoughtful choice.

    -chuck

  3. #3
    brent8927's Avatar
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    Hi,
    I can't give you much help except I can tell you what I thought about your film choices. I've used Velvia and I personally hated it, the times I used it my greens (from leaves) just looked really bad (my metering was good and a professional lab developed the film too). I've also used Astia, which I found to be a much nicer film; it still has good saturation and colors but not to the unrealistic degree that Velvia does. However, perhaps Velvia will work better for you, I'd at least give it a try. Considering that you've bought two new camera systems and are looking at a scanner and a computer, a few rolls of Velvia bought and developed really wont cost much.

    Personally I prefer Agra RSX 100, I found it to have very nice tonality. However, that was when I was shooting architectural (interior and exterior) shots, not exactly what you're doing. If I can't use the Agfa films, then I use Kodak slide film.

    You might want to try Kodak EPP 100. I have yet to try it (I will this weekend) but I was told by an incredibly knowledgable chemist/photographer/alt. process printer that it has a lot more exposure latitude than any other slide film, except for perhaps some tungsten-balanced film. In the landscapes I photograph there is quite a bit of contrast and highlights are often blown-out if I want my main subject to come out O.K. A slide film that can remedy this seems particularlly appealing to me...

    Brent

  4. #4
    bobfowler's Avatar
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    Your camera choices are great!

    As for getting the most out of medium format, here are a few thoughts:

    What are you using for a tripod? Make sure you have sticks and a head that are up to the task.

    Consider buying a good handheld meter.

    Not on your list - a cable release. Not using one is a sure-fire way to less than sharp pictures if your using slow exposure times.

    Get proper lens hoods - and use them. Even modern multi-coated lenses don't like a lot of stray light hitting them.

    Shoot a couple of rolls of B&W and make some prints (or scan the negatives) with what you have available before you throw money at the problem.

    That's a start...
    Bob Fowler
    fowler@verizon.net
    Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

  5. #5
    bobfowler's Avatar
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    I almost forgot...

    I use the older brother to your 7960 (the 7660). It's not a bad printer, but don't expect it to be as good as a "real" print.

    I scan with the Epson 2450 and 3200 scanners. Both do the job well enough. Once again, there is NOTHING like a wet process print - get used to it!

    I also have an older scanner, an Agfa Duoscan T1200 which does a pretty good job on medium and large format film. You don't always need the latest and greatest to get good result, you just need to learn the capabilities of what you have available.
    Bob Fowler
    fowler@verizon.net
    Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

  6. #6
    roteague's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrobinson54
    4. Film - I normally use Fuji Astia, but will probably start using Velvia. Good or bad choice? I would prefer to stay with slide film and I am looking for the best quality film for landscapes and scanning purposes.
    Velvia is the standard film for most landscape photographers, with good reason - excellent sharpness, color and tonal range. It is what I use 95% of the time (there is a 100F version if you like something a little less colorful).
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  7. #7
    kaiyen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrobinson54
    1. Film scanner vs. Flatbed scanner
    If I were to try and start out "right," I'd get a film scanner. The Minolta Multi Pro is awfully expensive but the resolution is insane. I have a Nikon IV for 35mm, and do my medium format scanning at work on an Epson 3200. The scans are good up to 11x14, but I'm clearly not achieving the kind of results I should be with such a large negative.

    I have been eyeing a Minolta Multi, the original version, myself. No ICE or anything like that and the resolution is lower, but it has glass carriers and supposedly gives results superior to a flatbed, enough though the flatbed claims much higher resolution.

    2. I have an HP7960 printer (8-1/2"X11"), which I plan to keep as a b&w printer. I plan to buy a good used Epson 2200. Is the Epson still considered one of the best printers (quality, life of print, color, etc.)? If not, what would be a better choice?
    If you're doing B&W, then the 2200 is probably your better option. Archival and you can get neutral prints using a RIP such as QTR.

    If you're going to print color as well, then you'll probably want to wait for the R1800, which was recently announced. It doesn't have the light black which is why it's considered to be not quite as good for B&W, but it'll give you better color results, reportedly.

    thinking of buying a used Apple G4, with enough memory to handle medium format files. Would I be smarter to buy a new iMac G5 or something else?
    Well, if you need to add expansion cards obviously you need some kind of tower, whether it's a G4 or otherwise. But the G5 iMac is "supposedlly" nearly as powerful as even a G5 tower, and you'd probably see quite an improvement with that as compared to a G4. Just make sure to get lots of RAM.

    4. Film - I normally use Fuji Astia, but will probably start using Velvia. Good or bad choice? I would prefer to stay with slide film and I am looking for the best quality film for landscapes and scanning purposes.
    Velvia is notoriously difficult to scan. I've had only decent results from it, but even then the colors are even wilder than the slides themselves. I really like the results I get from Provia, myself. Saturated enough to give more pop to landscapes, but not so much (or so contrasty) that it gets difficult to scan. I have not used Kodak's slide film at all yet.

    allan

    Any information or opinions would be much appreciated.[/QUOTE]

  8. #8

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    O.K.you asked a question. That pre-supposes that you want an honest answer. If you want the best from medium format, shoot film, develop your own film if you are doing black and white, print on silver paper.

    Taking the above as the parameters from which you would be operating, if in fact you are sincere in wanting the best results, then I would shoot slow speed film (efke comes to mind). Don't stop down your lens any more then absolutely necessary (limits the effects of diffraction). Use only a tripod mounted camera for your exposures (movement becomes apparent at enlargement). Learn the characteristics of your materials based on your operating conditions. (the EI and the proper development times). I wouldn't print any larger the 11X14 maximum (preferably 8X10) from a 6X4.5 negative.

    Most Important: THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS...DO THE WORK...DON'T RELY SOLELY ON THE INPUT OF OTHERS.


    Quote Originally Posted by rrobinson54
    This is my first post here. I am a long time 35mm user (Contax N1) and have used digital a couple of years (Olympus E1). Both are good cameras and I have been happy with the results. Except when it comes to landscapes. Despite my best efforts (tripod, slow film, etc.), the results when shooting landscapes are often disappointing. In an effort to improve my landscapes, I have purchased Fuji GSW690III (6x9 rangefinder) and Mamiya 6MF (6X4.5 rangefinder) cameras. I am looking for advice on how to get the most out of using medium format:

    1. Film scanner vs. Flatbed scanner - I cannot spend more than an additional $1,000 on a good scanner and am leaning toward the dedicated film scanner (if I can find one for around $1,000). My question is: do the latest flatbed scanners by Epson & Canon come close to the performance of a mid-level medium format film scanner? The technology on the Minolta Multi Scan Pro is getting a bit old (2002). Is it still good enough for high quality film scanning?

    2. I have an HP7960 printer (8-1/2"X11"), which I plan to keep as a b&w printer. I plan to buy a good used Epson 2200. Is the Epson still considered one of the best printers (quality, life of print, color, etc.)? If not, what would be a better choice?

    3. I know that I will need to upgrade my current computer to handle the file sizes of medium format. I am still using an iMac G3 and am thinking of buying a used Apple G4, with enough memory to handle medium format files. Would I be smarter to buy a new iMac G5 or something else?

    4. Film - I normally use Fuji Astia, but will probably start using Velvia. Good or bad choice? I would prefer to stay with slide film and I am looking for the best quality film for landscapes and scanning purposes.

    Any information or opinions would be much appreciated.

  9. #9
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Well for one, I have shot for a living for about 25 years now, and used to shoot Kodachome and switch to Velvia when Koda 25 became difficult to get and get processed, and have not looked back since, Velvia is highly saturated tword the blues and the greens, which for people who don't do alot of magazine submission, can find distracting and un-natural, but for the majority of us that shoot for publication, after the transfer process and layup, prints really good in the magazine rhelm, Astia, is two neutral and other than duplication efforts, I find it to be to neutral for any serious printing effort.

    Some of the new flatbed scanners are turning out to be very good and have had great success in rendering colors for print, of course your NOT going to get an inkjet to produce the results of a real print no matter what method you use to the scan, the current ink jet technology, still does not have the range to produce the subtle tonality that we see in photographic prints, or cibachrome prints.

    The 7600 is a great printer for giclee prints and does a quite good job, if you print large enough to be able to stand back, but you have the tendancy to see blocking in the shawdows unless your scans are high enough resolution, the majority of consumer scanners, still lack in the shawdow detail area which will cause blocking, due to the scanners inablility to do the subtle transisions. My personal favorite for medium format scanning is the Nikon 8000, which will handle 35mm and medium format, and is one of the defacto scanners of the pro industry for photographers that do their own scans for publication.

    I have owned 2 epson 2200 and hated both of them, they spent more time at epson, than they ever did working for me, and this has been reported by many other photographers I know, I would look at some of the recent Canon printers which are getting very good reviews around the net, if I remember right Canon has one called 4870 or something like that, that seems to do real good.

    One thing you really need to define, 'getting the most out of Medium Format' you need to figure out what you want to do with this size, if your after ultimate prints and scans, then you need to step to the plate and get the best you can afford, or set up a high quality dark room that will alow you the most flexibility to get the most out of your film and what is your acceptable best.

    Good luck in your quest, and as we all know, there is only one way to get a image into the computer, so if you have questions, feel free to ask, we all have to do the same thing to display on the net.

    One other thing, to get the best quality, and the finest prints, Tripods are a must, and slower speed films, I very rarely shoot without a tripod, and do not use high speed films every, I am currently setting up a complete darkroom/lab so I can control every little bit of the process to produce the prints and slides, I am happy with, after working in two labs, just acceptable is not in the equation for me, and having your own set up is the only way to be anal and get the results you want, without leaving the final outcome to someone elses eyes.

    Dave Parker
    Satin Snow Ground Glass
    Last edited by Dave Parker; 03-07-2005 at 02:17 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: added information

  10. #10

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    My tripod is a Gitzo G1227 and I use a Markins M10 ballhead. I may take out the column and make the tripod into a "Super Gitzo" for added stability.

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