I just returned from my first trip to Italy. I didn't carry my sheet film cameras because of various problems with security, limits on luggage, etc. I chose not to carry medium format for similar reasons and settled, much to my dismay, with 35mm.
I have processed the film, but will not be printing any of it. Why? Lack of detail to make the images interesting. There is just not enough space on a 35mm negative to come close to giving me what I think is necessary in a good photograph.
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One of the older Zeiss Folders
like the Super ikonta 531 (6 x 4.5cm) offers a good compromise between size and quality. 35mm Size and Medium Format Quality (tonality) and can be found for under $200. Russian Rangefinders can be found quiet cheap and the Jupiter 8 lens ist quiet sharp the Camera bodies are unfortunately not as good as the lenses, another option would be the Braun, Voss, Kodak, Voigtländer Rangefinder cameras of the 60's. The Voss Diax IIa & B, the Braun Super Paxette, the Kodak Retina IIIC and the Voigtlander Vitessa T have interchangeable lenses and the lenses are sharp even by todays standard.
If you're only enlarging to 8x10 35mm will give you plenty of sharpness. But, just make sure you really think about your decision. Is there a possibility you'll ever want to enlarge the photos more? This may be a serious possibility once you get a collection of great photos. And, you may want to do a show, or hang some on your wall or someone else's wall. If you think that is a possibly nothing will beat a MF RF. I have two Mamiya 6's and the Bronica RF645, and in the past owned a Mamiya 7. AMAZING cameras! You have to understand their limitations, but the negatives that come out of those machines will blow your socks off. I highly recommend a MF RF because it's easy to say now you'll only enlarge to 8x10, but you never know in the future. When in doubt, go with the larger negative! My Bronica RF645 is so compact, not much larger than a Leica. I'm sure the Fuji 645 RF's are similar size. I'd recommend one of those if you're trying to go lightweight.
Why not get both? Close to your budget get a Bronica ETR series such as the ETRs or ETRsi. Set up for MF it can be had in your price range and a 35mm normal or wide back maybe another $50. Lenses are very reasonable and acc'y are plentiful. There are a couple in the classified section for sale. I have been using one for several decades as both my MF and 35mm system and could not be happier. If you have never seen a mf transparency, it can blow our socks off.
OK so this still doesn't have anything to do with rangefinders, but my curiosity of slow speed 35mm vs medium speed 120 got the better of me. I set up a comparison between 35mm Efke 25 vs 120 Tri-X 400. Here are all the parameters I have notes on:
35mm: Nikon F3HP, 50mm f2 Ai @ f5.6 no filter, tripod, MLU, timer release. Efke 25 at EV 25, Rodinal 1:50.
Printed optically with glass carrier full frame (sort of) 8x10 and a 8x10 crop from what would be a 20" wide enlargement. El-Nikkor 6 element at f8 & f5.6 respectively.
120: Hasselblad 500CM, 80mm f2.8 @ f8, red filter, tripod, MLU, cable release. Tri-X 400 at EV 400 Xtol 1:1.
Printed optically with glass carrier full frame and 8x10 crop from what would be a 20 x 20" enlargement. Rodenstock 80mm 6 element at f11 & f5.6 respectively.
Conclusion: I need a better test setup and my framing was really poor, but the Efke 25 seems to enlarge quite nicely. I can still see an edge to 120 even in Tri-X. If I had used Efke 25 in 120 it would probably be no-contest. Also I should have used my polarizer on the Hasselblad and shot at EV 200 or 100 to get down into shutter speed range.
Anyway, here's a link to the raw print scans at 300 dpi. Only rotated and cropped, no sharpening or any other adjustments applied.
Last edited by declark; 09-01-2011 at 11:15 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Honestly, if you're printing 8x10? I am willing to bet with good technique, most people - those on this forum and myself included- would not be able to pick the MF shot or the 35mm shot from say a basket of 10 held at arm's length. Nose in the print? Yeah, if you belong to APUG, you are probably one of the .01% of the population that could tell them apart. Your normal audience? Not a chance. I have learned that people's eyesight is just not that good and/or they just don't care about technical aspects of a photo, if they like the subject matter. Just wow their socks off with whichever kind you like to shoot.
I have done these kinds of tests in a former life when I was obsessed with sharpness and that sort of thing. I have shot 35mm, 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 negs and color positives. 11x14 or 11x17 is where "great 35mm" starts losing out, and at 16x20 and upward, there is no comparison, the larger neg walks all over 35mm. However, that is not to say you cannot make larger prints with the 35mm format if that is what you choose. You can make excellent 16x20 enlargements, and depending on the capture, occasionally a 20x30 that will stand up to reasonable scrutiny with the right film and subject matter. In the end, I chose to stay with 35mm myself for reasons other than sharpness - ala "Galen Rowell type" reasons. There is such thing as "good enough" to get the shot where you're going; otherwise we'd all be lugging around 8x10 view cameras! (And some here do)
Bottom line is that for the money you want to spend, and the enlargement size you want to make, why would you not consider a decent 35mm RF? Quick, small, very sharp and fast lenses; and you can always save up for a bigger MF system later!
You can develop your T-Max 100, Plus-X 125 or even ATP 1.1 or whatever slow speed film you choose to have in your 35mm RF to give more grey scale...go for a developer that minimizes grain and brings out the mid range tones, not one for absolute sharpness or highest contrast. If you do this, and let's be honest, you would more than likely have to shoot a 400 speed film in the MF RF for similar shutter speeds, the difference at 8x10 print size is going to be negligible. In fact, it's going to be so negligible, that you're going to get all kinds of questions, like "what digital camera did you use" to "what a nice printer you have!", to "what film was that"...hardly anyone is going to ask you..."now, let me see, was that MF or 35mm"?
Originally Posted by Jedidiah Smith
Rubbish. 35mm can be printed to 500mm tall by a corresponding width; the key is technique, film choice, lens quality, visual accuity and composition. Nothing to do with "this format vs that format". You will get outstanding results if you invest in skill and technique, very high quality lenses, an understanding of visual arrangement, film and printing. I've printed A3 prints from Kodachrome 200 slides from an Olympus XA. If photographers are only going to print to A5 or A4 with whatever camera then debate sharpness and detail, they may as well hang up their kit and take up model building. There is much more to photography than detail, detail, detail. I emphasis skill and knowledge over time. And printing is what makes the image that makes the grade.
.::Gary Rowan Higgins
One beautiful image is worth
a thousand hours of therapy.
"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government
to save the environment."
One thing the OP didn't mention was whether he intends to shoot hand held? I presume so, if he specifies a range-finder.
I find MF outperforms 35 mm on a good tripod, but because the lenses have quite a bit longer focal length for the same angle of view, they can be harder to hold steady hand held. Camera shake is probably one of the biggest factors in an unsharp picture and so if hand holding the bigger format can often end up less sharp, if you are not careful... If the OP wants sharpness sharpness sharpness no matter what, then a Hassleblad bolted to a 10 ton concrete block might be the way to go... but sharpness sharpness sharpness whilst strolling around Paris in your shorts and sandals is maybe a job for a 35mm range-finder?
The other thing the OP doesn't mention is whether he will process and print himself or send then to a lab? I much prefer MF over 35mm - not because of sharpness or image quality, but because a large negative is much more user friendly in the darkroom. You can easily see what is on it, dust and other defects are less of a problem - it needs less enlargement so enlarger vibration, lens aberrations and distortion are also less than with 35mm. Obviously a skilled worker can get superb results from 35mm - but I personally just enjoy using the bigger negatives much more
I absolutly agree. And for those of us lacking (or more accuratly, learning) in any of those areas, and/or printing 8x10's from 35mm (with it's differing aspect ratio/cropping and tiny, tiny view finder), MF appears to hold a promise of improvement. And then there's the already mentioned darkroom handling benefits, all good stuff for a hobbyist processing only a few films a month.
the key is technique, film choice, lens quality, visual accuity and composition.
I'm enviously eyeing TLR's for the finder. Autocord's in particular. Light enough for my existing tripod, format fits my enlarger, cheap enough (barely) and good enough (by reputation at least).