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  1. #1

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    HELP! 35mm IS taking over my medium format!

    So I'm in a bit of a quarrel of formats..

    I bought a Mamiya 645 AFD about 6 months ago, intending to use if for the sole purpose of portraiture. Once I got a good feel for it with my own dinking around, I started using it for professional work.

    WOW! The negatives and scans were amazing...when they were in focus.

    BUT...Repeatedly I would miss shots because either the AF couldn't lock on fast enough (if at all), and if it wasn't the AF, the shutter lag was just horrendous..I kept missing shot after shot after shot, and at about $1.50/exposure my profits were being eaten up like candy. I began to loathe shooting with it because it was clunky and expensive.

    SO, I started using my F100 more and more when I wanted the shot to count, until I got to the point where I just don't even use the Mamiya anymore.

    The Nikon's AF is much faster, smoother, more reliable, almost no shutter lag, much smaller, less intimidating, shoots more pictures, and is MUCH cheaper to shoot.

    BUT..The pictures generally aren't crisp like the Mamiya (when it's in focus, mind you), and grain is much more intrusive.

    The films I generally shoot are either Portra 400 or 400H (depending on my mood).



    I really want to keep shooting film, it's working so great for me. I can have a consistent look/style and i'm starting to get a reputation for being a film shooter. It's gotten me work!

    But I hate shooting with the Mamiya and I'm thinking of selling it, along with one of my F100's for a Nikon F6.

    I've got some film that's enroute to RPL to get souped and scanned in. I shot some tests with my patient girlfriend with the Mamiya AND F100 just to have a more exact, straight comparison.

    I'm thinking,

    Pros:
    Mamiya 645AFD--------------Nikon F6
    Big negs-----------------------fast burst rate
    DOF control with 80mm---------smooth, reliable AF
    Can shoot digital---------------cheaper to shoot
    .........................-------------no shutter lag
    .........................-------------stronger body
    .........................-------------better viewfinder
    .........................-------------weight savings
    .........................-------------quiet (for the most part)


    Cons:
    Mamiya 645 AFD--------------- Nikon F6
    Lousy AF------------------------small format
    Lousy MF (with AF80mm)---------not as sharp
    Expensive to shoot---------------grainier
    long shutter lag------------------.................
    fewer exposures per roll----------.................
    poor metering indication----------.................
    loud-----------------------------.................
    awkward to hold-----------------.................



    My question for all the APUG'rs:
    Do you think it's crazy to give up the 645AFD in favor of an F6? I really want to like the Mamiya, but I just can't. I like the end result, I just don't like shooting with it. I really want to get an F6, but I'm not sure if the quality is up to the challenge quite yet.

    So far, it seems like most clients have been OK with the quality, but I did have a couple clients complain about the pictures being blurry and grainy. They were perfectly in focus, it's just that I was shooting at f/1.4 and film doesn't have that digital sharpness, not to mention 400 speed 35mm film is grainy compared to MF or digital.

    I'm torn on whether to just suck it up and try to make the Mamiya work, or try to see what I can squeeze out of 35mm.

    I do not want to shoot digital.

    I can't think of any wedding/portrait photographers that shoot primarily 35mm, they're all Medium format(on a Contax 99% of the time) or digital.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

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    What sort of shooting are you doing? Do you absolutely require auto focus or can you slow it down and go manual?

    Can you add light to the scene and shoot slower film?

  3. #3
    chriscrawfordphoto's Avatar
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    I've used a Mamiya 645 Super for nearly 20 years and never had trouble like you're seeing. I suspect that autofocus is not really good on medium format cameras. My 645 is manual focus. Unfortunately, the 645AF is probably a bitch to manually focus, like AF 35mm and digital cameras are. I haven't used one though, you might try switching off the AF
    Chris Crawford
    Fine Art Photography of Indiana and other places no one else photographs.

    http://www.chriscrawfordphoto.com

    My Tested Developing Times with the films and developers I use

    Become a fan of my work on Facebook

    Fort Wayne, Indiana

  4. #4
    lxdude's Avatar
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    Also consider the Pentax 645n or 645nII. The autofocus is reputed to be superior to either the Mamiya or Contax 645's, especially in low light. The Pentax AF lenses manual focus smoothly. I don't know how shutter lag compares, but I figure the Pentax is good in that regard, as I didn't notice a problem when I tried one (a 645n).
    I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
    When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.

  5. #5

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    erm I thought these days most pros use a digital camera for work and sometimes a film camera for pleasure and relaxation.

  6. #6
    EASmithV's Avatar
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    You should shoot Pan F+... Pan F+ and Nikon F6 is a very nice combo. I have a Nikon F6 and it's my first choice of camera for 35mm. I'm a freak and shoot handheld 4x5 like its cheap 35mm :P
    www.EASmithV.com

    "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."— Dorothea Lange
    http://www.flickr.com/easmithv/
    RIP Kodachrome

  7. #7
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Excalibur2 View Post
    erm I thought these days most pros use a digital camera for work and sometimes a film camera for pleasure and relaxation.
    He's not most pros. He's one who understands quality!

    I don't think I would bother with auto focus for portrait work though.


    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  8. #8
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    I think you are simply learning that getting the $#&@ing shot in the first place, and getting it in focus, counts for a lot more than the shot's technical details in terms of sharpness, grain, etc. IME, it's consideration number one of picking a camera for a specific purpose. IMO, if you cannot get what you want with medium format, get rid of it, or use it for more suitable subjects. A camera is worse than useless if working with it is causing you to miss timing and focus. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want to focus on and exactly when you want to click the shutter, but stumbling over the camera and missing it.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  9. #9
    polyglot's Avatar
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    Hey look I love my RZ, but there are things it won't do. Split-second snapshots and night portraits are two examples, hence I still have a DSLR with 85/1.4, AF and stabilisation that I can shoot by the light of a single candle. Sure it's not going to print out nearly as good as 6x7 Acros or something but the latter just does not have the sensitivity to get those shots. Use the right tool for the job - sometimes it's medium format, sometimes it's large format ... sometimes it's not.

    But yes, you can do portraits with the Mamiya (see all the good wedding shots taken 1960-2000) but it takes practise, forethought, preparation, and more practise. Flashes and good light are a huge help because they mean you can stop down a bit - a small (60cm) softbox with a good hotshoe flash in it can achieve f/16 to f/22 at 1m, which means an easy f/16 at 2m and ISO400 (flash as main light). If you're in bright open shade, that's about f/5.6-light, so you shoot at f/16 1/125 and the shade light becomes your fill at -1: instant beautiful outdoor portrait, just add 81B! You can set it up and work that one exposure with no further thought for a couple hours, with enough DOF to cover minor focus issues.

    And $1.50/shot? That's like $23/roll on 645 - what are you doing!? Even in Australia (the land of incredibly high prices), I can buy C41 from the US for $5/roll and pay a lab to develop it for $7 (DIY for $2). Cheaper still for B&W.

  10. #10
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2F/2F View Post
    I think you are simply learning that getting the $#&@ing shot in the first place, and getting it in focus, counts for a lot more than the shot's technical details in terms of sharpness, grain, etc. IME, it's consideration number one of picking a camera for a specific purpose. IMO, if you cannot get what you want with medium format, get rid of it, or use it for more suitable subjects. A camera is worse than useless if working with it is causing you to miss timing and focus. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want to focus on and exactly when you want to click the shutter, but stumbling over the camera and missing it.
    +1

    If a tool is keeping you from getting the job done, get rid of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by F/1.4 View Post
    The Nikon's AF is much faster, smoother, more reliable, almost no shutter lag, much smaller, less intimidating, shoots more pictures, and is MUCH cheaper to shoot.

    BUT..The pictures generally aren't crisp like the Mamiya (when it's in focus, mind you), and grain is much more intrusive.

    The films I generally shoot are either Portra 400 or 400H (depending on my mood).

    So far, it seems like most clients have been OK with the quality, but I did have a couple clients complain about the pictures being blurry and grainy. They were perfectly in focus, it's just that I was shooting at f/1.4 and film doesn't have that digital sharpness, not to mention 400 speed 35mm film is grainy compared to MF or digital.
    With regard to client expectations, do you show them examples of what to expect?

    The few times that I have been bit on this its been because I didn't do a good job before the shoot of explaining what I provide, really showing my style and my prints.

    The clients were simply in the market for a product I didn't offer and I didn't spot that problem in time, I was too hungry for the sale.

    Quote Originally Posted by F/1.4 View Post
    I'm torn on whether to just suck it up and try to make the Mamiya work, or try to see what I can squeeze out of 35mm.

    I do not want to shoot digital.

    I can't think of any wedding/portrait photographers that shoot primarily 35mm, they're all Medium format(on a Contax 99% of the time) or digital.

    Thanks in advance
    You have identified the problems, every machine of every type has, for lack of better descriptors, a personality and a skill set.

    The question is really are you willing to adjust to get the MF advantages.

    It is my understanding that Jose Villa actually uses both the Contax and 35mm. The 35mm for the faster candid work, the Contax for (my words here) the money shots.

    Jose will actually direct the action when needed for the money shots.

    This isn't the classic formals by any stretch nor is it the normal PJ style so many shoot today. If the couple does something fun that he couldn't get, he'll have them do it again.

    His direction also comes in the form of nudging clients into situations that give him the shots he sold them.

    Because he is willing direct when needed, he's not in so much of a rush and can keep his shot count down and still get exactly the what he needs to get on MF.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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