I've got an unusual problem that I'm wondering if anyone else has gone through. I like the idea of using film, the high quality of medium format (I'm using a Mamiya 7 currently), and the 'mystique' of doing things 'the old way'. I have this romanticized vision of it, you might say.
The problem is, when I actually go out to shoot, I'm so worried about missing the light or missing a particular shot that I can't pull myself away from my DSLR. I don't have a dedicated meter, so I take my 5D out with me, ostensibly as a meter only. So I'll take a few test shots with it once I find a composition I like, and the idea is to then switch to the Mamiya and copy the exposure settings from the DSLR. In reality, I never want to put the DSLR away because I'm so used to verifying everything on the LCD that I'm nervous about not recognizing an error on the Mamiya because I can't check anything after the shot.
For people who have only ever shot film, I can see why this would seem preposterous. But I didn't get into photography until after the 'digital revolution', so I started with a modern, live-view enabled DSLR. I'm finding the transition to film...most difficult. I love the idea of using film, of getting away from the computer, of being more a craftsman than a photoshop geek, but putting that into practice is a PITA.
I think my first step is to get a handheld light meter and leave the 5D at home to force myself not to use it, but does anyone have any other suggestions?
Nailed it. Before long you'll be leaving the light meter at home too!
Originally Posted by Six
I suggest you take an incident hand-held meter AND take your 5D with you, leaving the Mamiya at home for a few "exposure training" days.
While taking pictures, you use your light meter (properly), see what the reflected matrix-whatever light meter of the 5D says, and if there is discrepancy take both exposure, which you will compare at home. You should take pictures directly in JPEG format for this kind of exercise.
After a while of this practice, you'll have learned how to use an incident meter (very easy) or a hand-held reflected light meter (less easy as you have to take into account the average reflectance of the subject and estimate the angle of view of the instrument) and when you become proficient with it you will notice that in case of discrepancy the hand-held light meter will tend to give you better results.
You will end up using only your hand-held light meter for your digital pictures. When that happens, you'll know you won't need your 5D any more and you will take your MF and your hand-held meter without fears of wrong exposures.
And if you use negative film, especially B&W film, for most daylight shots, when the sun is more than 25° above the horizon, you can use the "sunny f/11" rule and will probably have a higher rate of good exposures than when relying on an in-camera meter.
Look for "sunny f/16 rule" here on APUG. Normally the exposure would actually be f/11 or f/11 + 1/2 stop instead of f/16. When using negatives you always want to err on the overexposure side, so "sunny f/11" should work better. You adjust for the various conditions (side light, open shade, veiled sun). You end up with apertures between f/4 and f/11, that's only 4 stops of interval. You'll have to "learn" by eye estimation those 4 light conditions.
Another exercise: walk around in a sunny day without any camera, only your light meter, imagine what exposure you would use based on the "sunny f/11" rule, and then take the measure of the light using an incident light meter.
Do this for an entire day or two. You will get a very clear perception that estimating exposure by sight is actually quite easy in normal daylight conditions.
Exposure is something to be very careful about only when using slides or digital. When using negatives you have ample room for mistakes. No need to carry with you a 5D and all the chimping.
Last edited by Diapositivo; 05-31-2011 at 02:36 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I'd say leave the digital at home and set the goal to shoot with errors and pleasant surprises. With digital it's easy to blow out the highlights; film is more flexible. The fun is in experimentation at the time of shooting.
I do both, too.
One thing about film is (B&W at least), while you can't see what you just took, it has so much more latitude in exposure that even if you mess it up a bit, you can still get images that are quite good. You could miss the exposure by 2 stops or more and you can get nice prints. You could probably over-expose more than two stops and still be fine. I hear color film has even more latitude but I do not shoot color in film, so I don't know.
I have light meters also but unless the shot is really tricky, I don't use it. I just let my F-100 and M645Pro with metering prism do the metering, do some correction if/when necessary and shoot.
As far as I know, Mamiya 7 has a built-in meter. Can you not use that and make adjustment as you see fit (such as in backlit conditions, etc)???
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
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The lightmeter in the M7 seems decent to me. Just point it at something you want to be generally close to middle gray in the scene and adjust. Takes all but 5 seconds. I swear it acts like a 5 or 10 degree spot, so just keep that in mind. Otherwise, start shooting off rolls!
As others alluded to, the exposure latitude depends on the type of film. The most latitude is with color negative film, especially with overexposure. It's almost impossible to expose so much you ruin a shot on color neg. For this purpose chromogenic B&W like XP2 is the same as color neg. Black and white is second. It will tolerate some overexposure or a lot on the case of modern T grain films but you will get an increase in grain, which probably isn't much of an issue with your medium format camera. Color transparency is very unforgiving and actually has more latitude on the underexposure side than for overexposure.
All of which is a long winded way of saying that unless you are shooting transparencies you likely have a lot more latitude for error than you are used to with your DLSR.
I think you have the right idea. Just get a good handheld meter and go out without the DSLR. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
My Mamiya 7 has a built in meter which is very good. Why aren't you using the one in your camera? The built in meter is like any meter, you need to learn when it is lying to you. But for most shots, it will give great results.
If you can't leave the digital behind, then take it out and use it once to find out the exposure. Put it away in your bag and zip it in there. You will not need to change exposure on your Mamiya until the light changes.
Learn the sunny f/16 rule. I have been shooting for decades and I still use it on most shoots--if not to set the exposure, at least as a check to make sure my meter is not off for some reason. For example, last year I went down the Grand Canyon. My meter was all over the place and I relied on the f/16 rule. I finally figured out why my meter was off. I was wearing a thick, broad brimmed hat which shielded the meter at times and caused inconsistent readings.
All this is called learning. For now, be more concerned with learning than getting the best result on each shot. The more you pay attention to the light and evaluate your results, the better your exposure and photographs will be in the long run.
Yep, that's the big drawback for people that are only use to DSLR's. Now if you had been shooting say a Nikon F5 instead, well then there would be no problem, cause the metering system will almost never fail. But when using something meter-less, of course get the meter and learn to take a proper reading and just take a couple of shots either side. At least your not shooting 4x5 at A $1 a sheet for B&W or $2.50 for color, so burn some film and support the industry and enjoy.
I don't know that camera so didn't realize it has a built in meter. What they said: use it.