1: Get a meter and leave the gadget at home.
2: Realize that your current shotgun method of photography is a dilution of effort. Become a sniper, not a machine gunner. Your aim will improve immensely. In general, the less you shoot the better your photographs will become, because you will really need to think about exactly what you are spending time and effort on. Because of forced economy, you will learn to pick the best shots, and of those show the best of the best. Renowned classic photographers didn't make much garbage, because it was inefficient to do so. DSLR's for all their positives carry with them the propensity to create the equivalent of vast quantities of photographic vomit. Film tend to create vurps, at worst.
I think you just need some practice to build up the confidence in your equipment. My recommendation is still grab some film, go out and shoot and see. You could go somewhere local for an afternoon, not a big trip. You have a really nice equipment already.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I've been through the same thing as you have.. Started out with a cropped DSLR and loved it (still do, and I still use it). Eventually I moved to shooting film for similar reasons as you have, and have never looked back. Digital has it's place, but when I want to have fun and/or work on my artistic side.. I go for film, always.
I find many of my friends (as I did myself), have a similar reaction to yours. A certain level of anxiety due to the lack of feedback from the camera. You take the picture and the camera remains "silent"!
Learn to trust it.. The picture is in there!! Believe it!! It looks like black magic (and in some ways it is).. all that matters is, press the button and don't worry.. It's in there!
With this in mind, I would invest in a good incident light meter. A Sekonic L-308 serves me well, and I got an older mode for ~$50 on ebay. It even has flash metering if I need it. The Sekonic L-398A is a much nicer meter to use, but it won't do low light very well. And I like the suggestion of using the meter with your DSLR at first. Or carry all three- DSLR, Mamiya 7, and the meter. Take a reading, set the DSLR for it, see what the histogram does. If it is blocked up a bit on the highlights, don't worry. Take a film shot, then compare the two when the film is ready.
Whether you do something like I say, something else, or just stumble around for a bit more, remember that it took all of us time to learn to expose film properly. With digital, getting decent results from the first shot is not difficult. With film, making mistakes was expected. And each mistake was (oh geez, I hate saying this, but...) a learning experience. The feedback wasn't immediate, but it was there, and it was very real. Sometimes painfully real.
Another point- traveling a few hours to shoot with a camera you haven't got a handle on is a recipe for failure. Practice and make your mistakes on local, low-pressure shooting before making a larger investment (of time, money, client goodwill, whatever) that could very easily go bad.
Originally Posted by JBrunner
"You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it's all about. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot."
The Deer Hunter
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Take em both. Go have fun. Shoot more, worry less. You'll soon decide which is your real cup of tea.
With your 5d, you'll know in 2 seconds if its a keeper. With your negative, you'll likely have something that you can grow into, and come back to for years to come, as your printing skills develop.
For a small basic lightweight meter, pick up a sekonic l208. That's what I mostly use with LF and MF. For flash use, I have a minolta IV flash meter, which aught to be pretty cheap used. I stay away from the 30+ year old antique meters; it's not that expensive to have something modern and reliable.
For use, I just re-meter when light conditions change, such as when things become overcast, or you change to be shooting under a tent/awning. It mostly sits idle. If you are shooting negative film, exposure isn't super critical.
Once you can leave the digital camera behind, you can begin to use the camera with the confidence that it should do what you tell it.
You use the digital like I used to use my Polaroid. After a while, I slid into just using the Polaroid. Had to break the habit by leaving it at home but after learning not to rely on it, I did use it for proofing a setup. No harm in that. Just don't slide the way I did.
I'd recommend getting a hand held meter. Brand and model is not critical provided it is working and reading correctly for its spec. Then, leave the cameras at home and with pen, paper and meter go out and learn to read light using the Sunny 16 rule. Estimate the settings, write them down and then compare them to a meter reading. If like others, it will take a little time to dial in your eyes but geting to within 1 f/stop should not take long. Getting to within 1/3rd f/stop is the long part of the learning curve. 1 f/stop for most film except transparency will yield good results. The 1/3rd f/stop is better and pretty well needed for transparency film. It is easier than it sounds but takes practice.
When you've goten to within the 1 f/stop pretty consistently, then load the camera and do some test shooting. You need to dial it in with the meter as the shutter speeds are almost never exact with cameras and not all meters read the same. Some will read 18% grey rather than 16% as a normal spec. A little practice will sort this out. If possible do get a grey card. Kodak made them and they are excellent working tools to keep in the kit.
The DSLR can become a tool for checking your visualization of the composition but, remember the ratio of width to height will be different so allowances have to be made for it.
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. If you want to take the good ones on film, then you need to use film. You will miss some for technical reasons - most of us here still do on occasion. We just try to not miss others and learn from the ones we missed.
Originally Posted by Six
When you use the 5D, how often do you look at the LCD and realize you royally screwed up? If it isn't that often, then you'll likely have similar results with film - you just don't get to look right after you shoot.
Find nearby subjects for practice and I think you'll find that you're better than you think.
Can't agree with this, as having both of them is the problem now. You'll use the quick and easy one with instant gratification (or at least feedback) as you've proven. If you don't have it, you can't use it.
Originally Posted by tim k
Since you have a built in meter in your Mamiya I'm not even sure why you're taking the DSLR to meter with. Is the Mamiya meter broken?