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  1. #1

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    Moving From Digital to Film! Just bought a MF camera.

    So I decided to finally make the big jump from digital to film…
    That’s right, I’m going old school.

    I have been using a Canon 40D for the most part (had a Rebel XTI and a backup) but I wanted to switch to medium format so I could make larger prints. I also wanted to give film a try because I want to slow down my photography and not just shoot a lot of photos at different exposures and different compositions.

    A friend sold me his Mamiya RB67 Pro S with a 6x7 120 film back and waist level viewfinder. He also included 5 Mamiya Sekor C lenses (50mm f/4.5, 65mm f/4.5, 90mm f/3.8, 127mm f/3.8 and 180mm f/4.5) and a cable release. I also recently bought a Polaris SPD500 Dual 5 Flash Meter – so I think I am good there.

    I am totally new to film and I need some advice – the last film camera I had was a 35mm point and shoot.

    What type of film would you recommend? I will mainly be using this for landscapes, cityscapes and outdoor portraits – some might be nighttime, but they would be long exposures.

    I saw that there focusing screens are among the accessories? What are they? Should I get one? Which one(s)?

    Would you suggest a prism viewfinder? Or will the waist level viewfinder suffice?

    Would I want a Polaroid back as well? What would be its use?

    Can anyone recommend a good backpack that would fit all of that?

    Is there anything else you would recommend for my medium format kit?

    I’m sure I will have more questions as I work with this camera (like where is a good gym because this thing is a beast!) but I think that is all for now.

    Of course any other advice would be great.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Frank Szabo's Avatar
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    In many areas, you're asking others as to what your preferences are. I haven't a clue. That said, ...

    For film, there is a great variety available in black and white, not so much in color.

    B&W's qualities are determined (my opinion) equally by the film AND chemistry combination. What works for one person may not work for the other guy. Play with it and try out different things but remember - you'll probably end up developing your own black and white. It's not difficult, but it's very much like shooting a rifle; it matters not whether you do it correctly or not. Just do what you're doing the same way every time. Consistancy means more than correctness.

    Polaroid (really a Fuji) back? Not unless you want to feed it ($1.00+/shot). Better to learn your light meter inside and out.

    I'd suggest a prism finder - I wouldn't consider using my RB without one. Get the small magnifier that fits on the prism's eyepiece when you can also. It'll help out immensely.

    Focus screens are personal preference - some are brighter than others. You may or may not need that.

    Other than loading the film, this beast works exactly like your 40D if you've selected "M" as the mode of operation. You might, instead of the Polaroid, use the Canon as a proofer. I use my 30D to proof-shoot for my 8X10. It's a lot cheaper with color film at $8-$14 per shot developed.

    Anyway - welcome to the world of film, crazy as it is.
    ...

    "Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy."

    Benjamin Franklin

  3. #3

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    thanks for your advice...

    I cant wait to pick up some film and start playing around with this...

  4. #4

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    Look at the photos you took with your DSLR. Which ones do you really like, colour, black and white? Fine grained and contrasty with saturated colours try Velvia. Want to use grain as a feature of the photo try pushing some TriX. Choosing film stock is all a matter of aesthetics. I used to really love 3M 1000 iso tranny, I was going through a David Hamilton phase at the time (blimey that dates me!!!!). Then I discovered Fuji 50 and like that for shooting landscapes. Then I got into urban?street photography and chose Ilford Delta 400. Now I'm still shooting street stuff but I don't have access to a darkroom so I'm shooting Ilford XP2. So film tastes can change quite dramatically.

    I'd get a really good sturdy tripod with a good head.

    Then I would play around for a while with what you've got. After a while you'll soon know what would make life easier and then you can buy it. The beauty of the pro medium format cameras is that they are modular systems that you can to.

  5. #5

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    thanks...

    i guess I will pick up some Velvia and try that out.

    I have a really sturdy manfroto tripod so I should be good there.

  6. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Are you going for color or black&white? Will you develop film and print yourself? Scan and output digital, or print optically?
    Some color films are made with scanning in mind. Black&white film - if you want to make it look good scanned (and printed) you will want a scanner that can resolve the grain of the film (which is really really tiny).
    Most people start out trying a bazillion different films. Don't do that. Stick to one film until you feel you know how to manipulate it to get what you want. When you're confident with your abilities you may want to start experimenting. Especially when you use black & white film there are many variables that determine what the final print is going to look like. If I were you, I'd start with film/chemistry that's available near you. That usually means it's from a major manufacturer and that it's likely to stick around for a while.
    I will not make any particular film / developer recommendations, because it's just my opinion on what looks good. You may think that how I use the film gives horrible results.
    Have fun. Stick to one thing for a good while, fifty rolls or so. Play around with it, learn its weaknesses and strengths.
    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  7. #7
    GeoffHill's Avatar
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    When I started, I used the meter from my 400d to expose for my hassy. Works a treat until you get used to your handheld meter.

    I wouldnt worry too much about which colour film, I don't think there are any bad ones about.

    If you want to go and shoot more black and white, then HP5 or Tri-X, and develop them yourself. Go shoot a whole pile of rolls of film, then choose which one you like yourself.

  8. #8

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    To add to all these suggestions: When I went from digital back to film, I actually restricted myself to one lens per camera (I seem to have accumulated more cameras than anticipated). Perhaps, since you're just starting out with MF, consider sticking to one lens (the 90mm is a good start), figure out what you need to adjust to compose well -- for my sins, I needed to re-learn a great deal -- and then gradually move out from there. It's easy to get distracted by gear...

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Are you going for color or black&white? Will you develop film and print yourself? Scan and output digital, or print optically?
    Some color films are made with scanning in mind. Black&white film - if you want to make it look good scanned (and printed) you will want a scanner that can resolve the grain of the film (which is really really tiny).
    Most people start out trying a bazillion different films. Don't do that. Stick to one film until you feel you know how to manipulate it to get what you want. When you're confident with your abilities you may want to start experimenting. Especially when you use black & white film there are many variables that determine what the final print is going to look like. If I were you, I'd start with film/chemistry that's available near you. That usually means it's from a major manufacturer and that it's likely to stick around for a while.
    I will not make any particular film / developer recommendations, because it's just my opinion on what looks good. You may think that how I use the film gives horrible results.
    Have fun. Stick to one thing for a good while, fifty rolls or so. Play around with it, learn its weaknesses and strengths.
    - Thomas
    I doubt i would be processing the film myself - I dont have the time or knowledge to do that.

    As for what is available, I live in NJ and am within 30 minutes of B&H, Adorama and Unique Photo. So I'm not really limited by what they sell locally.

    Most of my shooting to date has been in color (I'd say 95%) I assume I would stay the same with film.

    Thanks for the advice

    When I started, I used the meter from my 400d to expose for my hassy. Works a treat until you get used to your handheld meter.

    I wouldnt worry too much about which colour film, I don't think there are any bad ones about.

    If you want to go and shoot more black and white, then HP5 or Tri-X, and develop them yourself. Go shoot a whole pile of rolls of film, then choose which one you like yourself.
    I've been shooting most of my digital stuff on manual recently - using my meter (or even trying to figure it out without) So I have gotten pretty used to the meter. I think I am still going to carry a digital around with me as a back-up and also use it to see if it is a composition I like - take a few test shots with it.

    To add to all these suggestions: When I went from digital back to film, I actually restricted myself to one lens per camera (I seem to have accumulated more cameras than anticipated). Perhaps, since you're just starting out with MF, consider sticking to one lens (the 90mm is a good start), figure out what you need to adjust to compose well -- for my sins, I needed to re-learn a great deal -- and then gradually move out from there. It's easy to get distracted by gear...
    I basically used to do that with my digital... taught me so much. I limited myself to either my 50mm and 85mm lenses (which from what I read would be the equivalent of my 90mm and 180mm on my MF).

    thanks!

  10. #10

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    The image on a waist level finder is reversed right to left, some people find that hard to get used to. It means that if you're following anything moving you must move your body opposite to what you see in the camera. It also means your final image is flipped from what you saw in the camera.
    Also, with the camera on a tripod you're are limited to having the camera chest high, or so, unless you have a ladder or some other support you can use to look down into the camera.
    None of this is a big deal, but a prism lets you avoid all those adjustments, at the expense of added weight.

    Waist level finders have their advantages too, weight is one. For portraits it lets you be more "in touch" with your subject, since you don't have your face hidden behind a huge camera. It lets you avoid bending over if you're doing a low angle shot from a tripod.
    WL finders are also handy if you're doing a shot from within a crowd of people, you can hold the camera over your head to get over the crowd. Once you can frame a shot accurately that way, you will have achieved WLF expert status.

    Fortunately, the RB has a rotating back, so you never have to turn the camera on its side for verticals.

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