If Medium Format and Large Format are Better, Why Do We Bother with 35mm?
As one who has shot 35mm for about ten years, and has had an acquintance with 35mm equipment for much longer, I wonder why I have not made "the switch" or "upgrade"? MF and LF users and ethusiasts constantly blast the "small" 35mm negative for its extremely inferior resolution. If this is true, why do we waste our time with our "classic" 35mm cameras?
In my case (as is the case with others here), I own multipe 35mm cameras, and thus I waste even more time, money, and effort than those who own just one 35mm camera. Why not sell it all and take real photographs--photos with stunning edge-to-edge sharpness and resolution? MF and LF gear costs not much more than 35mm gear (and far less than better digital equipment), and so why are we concerned with obtaining, maintaining, and using equipment that simply cannot compare? Further, how did all of those classic pro cameras (those Fs, F2s, F3s, F-1s, F-1Ns, LXs) sell so well? Is it all about "portability," "convenience," and action photography?
I do not have an answer to these questions, and so I thought I would pose them to fellow 35mm enthusiasts.
It is. I sold all my 35mm gear (Nikon F2A, F2AS, FE2) when I bought my Pentax 67II in 1998. I thought I could do without 35mm. In 2005 I bought a 35mm rangefinder to complement the medium format camera. Sometimes you want to travel light. As always, having both is better.
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
Last edited by Joachim_I; 11-16-2009 at 05:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Most of my film stuff is done with a Hasselblad 500CM or Mamiyas (RZProII, RB67, 645Super), but I've recently returned to 35mm for the convenience and fun of it. Just bought a Minolta X700 system *cheap* and have a mint Canon 1N coming soon in the mail. These cameras will be used for my less-serious art photos and family photos...and I'm feeling nostalgic about 35mm slide projection--so I'm looking forward to that too.
My "serious" work will most likely always remain in the MF realm, but I really look forward to returning to shooting 35mm again.
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You'll get plenty of responses, but I'll throw a few ideas out there:
1) Portability - 35mm cameras are typically smaller and lighter, great for travel; try lugging around your 4X5 field camera on your honeymoon;
2) The cost differential has only recently narrowed so much as to make the additional expenditure tolerable for most amateurs; I've always said the advent of digital opened the door to amateurs seeking great medium/large_format equipment;
3) Amateur photographers were never really marketed medium or large format; the masses buy what you sell them.
4) How many amateur photographers do you know that routinely enlarge past 8x10? Well, you can certainly produce great 8x10 prints with 35mm without moving up in formats.
5) Because you probably started with 35mm and have produced quality photographs. If it ain't broke don't fix it.
All this being said, I love my MF and LF. But most importantly shoot well with whatever you've got, be it a pinhole or an Arca! It's not the format, it's the light.
"There is a time and place for all things, the difficulty is to use them only in their proper time and places." -- Robert Henri
Serious stuff I usually use the Hasselblad 503 or 903. For speed, sightseeing and lighter weight I have two Nikons - one for color and one for black & white.
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
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There is a problem — and a very long-standing one — with the thinking of MF and LF users who look down at 35mm for its "inferior resolution". Tell me, how many MF and LF users actually adopt an holistic approach to creating quality work from conception to hanging on the wall, spending $xxxxx on printing (e.g. Ilfochromes to 30x50cm and 40x50cm — that's much bigger than 8x10!)) and MGCS framing? As a working artist, I often get a giggle from the 'bigger guys' carting Hassies and Bronnies around but not actually producing any quality finished art from them, just mass-produced, digitally printed wedding stuff (profitable, sure, but inferior quality is just too obvious!). I print to a sensible size straight from 35mm (as I have done for more than 20 years) and many visitors viewing my gallery prints think the work comes from medium or large format, until I show them the transparency in its mask: "Oh, I would never dream that was possible with those cameras!" [35mm/EOS1N], is one but many comments.
Many professionals today seem hell bent on demeaning 35mm rather than explore and exploit its full potential and versatility in creating high quality products (art, in my specific case), but no, these guys are only interested in the (undeniably) higher resolution and seemingly the entrenched 'code' (working pros must have a medium or large format and no 35mm, right?), for an end print that is no bigger in many respects to an A4 page produced form scan on a lightjet printer. I don't demean my trannies by scanning them and churning them out on mass-produced inkjet printers.
So, before they knock the smaller format users, perhaps they should take a careful look at the sort of work being produced by those users as opposed to themselves. The late Galen Rowell showed how it was done. And the legion of devote small-format users is growign: I'm certainly not alone in my strident preference for 35mm by any stretch of the imagination!
2 things that are not available in MF and LF are fast motor drive and the range of lens focal length available.
Well, many people in this world use 35mm including myself. I also use medium and large format. We all know the differences and the uniqueness of each. You touch on a big topic in your comment/question...."photos with stunning edge-to-edge sharpness and resolution?"
In general the big stink when it comes to "Mine is bigger than yours" ...this attitude mainly comes from not having much else to talk about other than the tools and quantitative aspects. Ya, I don't much enjoy that aspect either. See, the majority of people using a BIG camera, use it differently than the 35mm. And thus, they have a lot more time to prepare for the shoot and wonder if edge sharpness will make their vision 20/20.
Another reason and sometimes my reason for shooting a bigger format is, I am more deliberate in my photos....meaning, I know the subject matter and will focus my attention on the benefits of the format while still getting the ideal pictures.
If you ever decide to move to a different format, change because it may help to fulfill you ultimate vision. For that reason, I don't think you could go wrong.
Originally Posted by Chan Tran
I confess I do have a new toy for B&W small-production work: my handmade wooden Zero Image 6x9 multiformat (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9) Pinhole has neither common camera luxury — nor a lens (!), and suffers nothing for lack of it.
Leica M6 + 15, 21, 35 & 90mm lenses: 1.274 Kg.
Pentax 6x7 + 45, 75 & 165mm lenses: 3.9 Kg.
(without an ultrawide comparable to a 15mm lens with 35mm)
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa