Medium format photography the old way, is it advisable?

Started 8 months ago | Questions thread
ecm
ecm
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Re: Medium format photography the old way, is it advisable?
In reply to hoakin1981, 8 months ago

Is medium format fun? certainly; it's a whole different type of photography; exercises "muscles" you didn't know you had.... learning to properly expose without a meter is always useful, and learning to (or trying to) visualize your photo before pressing the shutter button (without chimping the previous shot) is priceless.

Is it advisable? well..... it's a lot of work in general, the cameras can be incredibly heavy to lug around, and it isn't necessarily cheap.

Shaggy dog version:

I got into film again about 5 years ago when I found an old Koni-Omega Rapid (a common 6X7 cm wedding camera from the 50's-60's, cost ~$200) a 6X6 folder from the 60's ($20) and an ancient folding Voightlander 6X9 ($30). The folding cameras had poor lenses and light leaks, I would have been better off with a Holga. The Koni-Omega is a different story entirely - the lens was as sharp as anything you can name; solid as cast iron but weighs 5 lbs (!); and no exposure meter - I got an ancient meter off flea-bay for about $25.

I put about 30 rolls of B&W through them; I set up a mini-darkroom for B&W with a change bag and a tank. I used the simplest/most fool-proof processor I could find, diluted D-76; it was really easy once I got the hang of it. My best results were with B&W - incredibly sharp and wonderful tonality; like nothing I could get from my 8 MP dSLR at the time. However it was very time consuming; it took several hours to develop, dry and scan each roll.

I shot about 20 rolls of C-41, it was trivial to get processed - I simply took it to the local Walmart, they had a 120 film adapter in a drawer that they could use to put it through their Fuji machine. Took 20 minutes and cost $6/roll; I never had any problems, other than convincing whatever young tech was there to look in the drawer for the adapter. Unfortunately I don't know whether Walmart still has film developers in stores.... For convenience this was easily the best choice; I could shoot a couple rolls in the late afternoon and I was scanning them in the evening.

I tried a couple rolls of Velvia 50 - but E-6 film was very expensive, and it cost about $16/roll to develop (without frames); the results were beautiful but I couldn't afford it. The pro shop stopped doing developing in-house, and it had to be sent away - took a couple weeks.

I scanned my negatives with an Epson 4990; it did a remarkable job; I could print 16X20 without any problems. If I really wanted to I could have oil mounted the negatives and gone a lot farther, but frankly I just didn't get anything worth fussing that much over.

My total investment in medium format was about $800, including equipment, film, developing and scanner. After about 3 months I took a look back at my results; it was clear that MF film was able to give me gorgeous results (far better than anything digital at the time) but I just wasn't getting any shots I really wanted to print; it was too big to cart around every day and taking it on vacation (where almost all of my best shots are taken - location, location, location.....) was out of the question.

When I moved to a new (much busier) career I just never found time for it any more; I still have the equipment and a few films in the freezer, but at the rate technology is advancing by the time I get back into it, it'll be pointless - the new generation of FF cameras are producing photos easily as good as what I was getting, with a lot less fuss; in 5-10 years m4/3 will likely be just as capable.

So, there's my two bits.

Colin.

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